East Rowan mourns after leukemia claims Devan Cowan

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 16, 2011

By Nathan Hardin
SALISBURY — Michael Devan Cowan ended a long bout with leukemia on Thursday with a hug for his mother and an “I love you.”
The 18-year-old East Rowan High School senior was diagnosed in 2010 and has spent much of the time since at Charlotte hospitals.
He passed away at 3:05 p.m. Thursday on the 11th floor at Levine Children’s Hospital.
Michael Cowan said nurses on the floor came to his son’s room in rotations to pay their respect, joining those from a nearby clinic who also came.
“God blessed me,” Michael Cowan said Friday. “He blessed me with a son that I’m so very proud of, and when I get to heaven I’m going to see him because he’s already there.”
Tributes for the teen spilled into the parking lot at East Rowan High Thursday night in the form of a candlelight vigil.
Despite not having slept in two days, Michael Cowan said he had to go.
“It was just an outpouring of love,” he said.
Cowan said about 50 to 75 students and their parents attended the vigil, and after he got there they held hands and each person gave a testimony about the 18-year-old his principal called “a fighter.”
East Rowan High School Principal Kelly Sparger said the school atmosphere was “subdued” on Friday.
“He’s fought very hard. It’s been a long, tough road for him,” Sparger said. “There’s been a lot of ups and down.”
The school’s rock had been painted with red letters and covered in personal tributes to the 18-year-old.
Sparger said many students at school wore red for Devan on Friday. Some wore shirts with “Cowan’s Crusaders” written on them.
The shirts had been created as a way to raise awareness, support and money for their classmate and his family after hearing the news in 2010.
• • •
Devan Cowan came home with a headache at the end of August that year.
He had just finished football practice and asked his parents for some headache medication.
The next day after practice, he told his father his head was still hurting.
Michael Cowan said he took him to a Spencer doctor that Friday, who asked for a blood test. The following Monday, Cowan had to go back for another blood test.
After a third abnormal blood test result from Carolinas Medical Center-NorthEast, Devan Cowan was admitted to Levine Children’s Hospital.
He was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia.
Devan spent much of his last year and a half at the hospital, returning home only for brief periods.
Michael Cowan said Devan’s brother, Stephen, donated more than 20 million cells as part of a stem cell transplant.
But the operation helped and hurt Devan.
Cowan said the transplant lowered his son’s white blood count and “his immune system went to zero.”
His death resulted from a virus that his immune system couldn’t fight.
Cowan called his son’s death “devastating.” But his life carried a powerful message.
“A father is supposed to teach his son,” he said, “but Devan taught me that you never give up. You just never give up. You keep going.”
Contact Nathan Hardin at nhardin@salisburypost.com or 704-797-4246.