Eight-year-old D.J. Cohen who charmed classmates, teachers at Orange Grove Elementary dies

Orange Grove Elementary Charter School teacher Laura Meseck visits with D.J. Cohen at MUSC Children’s Hospital last year. D.J. died Monday of a genetic immune disease. Buy this photo

Eight-year-old D.J. Cohen didn’t let his debilitating medical condition weaken his infectious laugh, broad smile or upbeat spirit.

To help

D.J. Cohen’s funeral will be 4 p.m. Saturday at the chapel of the Redmond-Richardson Funeral Home in Kingstree.

To help the family with funeral costs, please make checks payable to Laura Meseck c/o D.J. Memorial Account.

Checks may be mailed to: Laura Meseck c/o D.J. Memorial Account, 1225 Orange Branch Road, Charleston, SC 29407.

A genetic immune disease caused his body to fight itself, and on Monday, his body no longer could take the strain.

His family grieves his loss, as does an entire West Ashley school of students and teachers who knew and loved him.

“He showed me what life was really all about — to enjoy every day as long as you’re here,” said Laura Carlson Meseck, his former first-grade teacher. “That child smiled through everything, and he lit up the room. He didn’t realize how many people he touched.”

The Post and Courier published a story about D.J. in May 2011. He’d been hospitalized and put on life support, and the Orange Grove Elementary Charter School community rallied around him.

No one knew whether he would survive, but he fought his way back.

D.J. was in Meseck’s class before the hospitalization, and the pair developed a special bond. Last summer, D.J. felt better, and Meseck made sure they spent time together. She took him out to a Japanese steakhouse and to a 3-D movie.

She held his oxygen tank over her head while he played in the pool, and she organized a bowling outing for his entire first-grade class because he’d missed the chance to tell his classmates “goodbye” for the summer.

He returned to school in a wheelchair this past fall. Every day before classes started, students would sit against the walls and read. D.J. didn’t miss a beat.

“He would roll down that hall like a celebrity,” Meseck said. “He would roll down the line, and people would high-five him. That’s just how he was.”

A few months into the school year, his mother, Chantel Bass, moved D.J. and his siblings to Kingstree to live with her family for financial reasons.

D.J.’s health continued to worsen, and he spent the rest of the school year in and out of hospitals. Each time made him a little weaker, and on Monday, his body couldn’t continue its fight.

His relatives came to say their goodbyes at MUSC Children’s Hospital, as did his Orange Grove Elementary family. Meseck stayed with his family until D.J. died.

He would’ve turned 9 next week, and Bass still plans to have a small party in his honor.

“It’s going to be a celebration,” she said. “I know where my son is. He’s definitely an angel.”

Reach Diette Courrégé at @Diette on Twitter or 937-5546.

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