By Krista Torralva, Express-News Staff Writer
Four years ago, Alie Cole beamed when Dr. Robert Huff draped a white lab coat over her shoulders, signifying her entrance to medical school at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.
What followed was tough. Plenty of nights she came home crying, telling her husband she doubted she’d pass the next exam. The need to study forced her to miss her children’s wrestling matches and piano recitals.
Her husband, Todd Cole, would come home to find her on the same spot on the couch where she’d been studying when he left with the kids hours earlier. A twisted towel on her head was the only sign she’d moved long enough to shower and go back to the books.
“There’s been ups and downs and moments I didn’t think I would make it,” Alie Cole, 34, said.
On Sunday, she graduated from the Long School of Medicine at what is now called UT Health San Antonio. In a week, she and her family will move to Boston, where she will begin a four-year residency at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center in pursuit of her goal to be a pediatric anesthesiologist.
The chief motivation amid the challenges was her youngest child, 9-year-old Kasen, who without the health science center’s doctors might not be alive today. Born 24 weeks premature, Kasen’s brain hemorrhaged and he underwent several surgeries. There were times his family didn’t know if he’d survive.
Inspired by what she saw through the hours of her son’s therapy and doctor appointments, Cole enrolled in the undergraduate neurobiology program at the University of Texas at San Antonio. She graduated with top honors in 2014. That same year, then-5-year-old Kasen began to live a more normal childhood, his feeding tube removed.
He still visits his neurosurgeon, Dr. Hatem Megahed, every two years.
“He talks about it for weeks. He’s so excited,” Cole said.
She would look at her son, remember his fight and her family’s uncertainty, and recall her reason for getting into medical school to help other kids and families.
“I have to be strong for them,” Cole said.
And strong for her older children; Victoria, 19, Kylan, 13, Kayden, 12, and Kameron, 11.
Todd Cole said he was amazed when his wife used her rare time off not to rest but instead to initiate family trips to South Padre Island or hiking days on area trails.
“She had work at 6 a.m. (the next day) but she didn’t care,” Todd Cole said. “She wanted to create memories with the kids.”
Last Friday, about a week from moving day, they were going to Six Flags Fiesta Texas.
Now Kasen aspires to be like his mom. He says he wants to be a doctor as he flips through her study materials.
“He is in love with it,” Alie Cole said.