Kentucky’s Cottam Endures 13 Eye Surgeries

Editor/Collegiate Baseball

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kole Cottam has overcome great odds in becoming the starting catcher at the University of Kentucky.

He was born two months premature at 4 pounds 8 ounces after an emergency Cesarean section was performed on his mom Kori.

Doctors at the time said he would never exceed the 50 percentile for his height, weight and intelligence as he grew up.

He was so small that his body fit in a catcher’s mitt (see photo).

This strapping sophomore catcher is now 6-foot-3, 230 pounds and has a 3.5 grade point average as a Kinesiology major at Kentucky. As a freshman last year, he made the Southeastern Conference First-Year Academic Honor Roll.

To complicate matters at birth, he had a dark, rare mole surrounding his right eye termed a congenital melanocytic nevus which occurs in one percent of infants worldwide.

Because of the concern for this turning into a cancerous mass over the years, Cottam has undergone 13 eye surgeries in an effort to extract this tissue and keep it from growing.

“Kole was born at 32 weeks and was immediately whisked away to the Intensive Care Unit,” said his mom Kori, who is an OB/GYN (physician who delivers babies and specializes in treating diseases of the female reproductive organs).

“I was well aware of what being born two months early involved. He would be put on a ventilator, have a blood transfusion and the staff would do everything necessary until his lungs matured. Thank goodness Kole was in the hands of an extremely talented medical staff.

“After the C-section, I was told that he had a birthmark around his right eye and his left hip was accidentally cut which required stitches.

“Kole ultimately had to be in the ICU for 17 days.”

Kori said that her son was extremely fortunate that Dr. Chris Fleming examined her son’s birthmark.

“Dr. Fleming thoroughly examined the area and said that this type of lesion would in all likelihood turn into melanoma (cancer) during puberty. So it was important to start extracting this tissue off as soon as possible to prevent cancer from showing up.”

Kori said that at three months of age, he had his first of 13 surgeries on the darkened tissue around his right eye.

“I believe eight of the 13 were done before he was two years old.”

Over and over again, the tissue was cut out and skin grafts brought in. He has had his tear ducts reconstructed several times.

According to Kole, the last of the 13 surgeries was when he was in eighth grade and was 14-15 years old.

The procedures were typically not painful since he was knocked out via an IV in his arm or a mask over his nose and mouth.

One time in his youth, he went to receive a checkup with his dad Jeff which still causes Kole nightmares.

To read more of this article, purchase this issue or subscribe to CLICKING HERE. It includes the story of a horrible ordeal Cottam experienced when a nurse stuck a needle near his right eye six times to numb the area, plus how he has become such a superb catcher during his playing career which also had its bumps along the way.