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Central Saanich Navy Cadet Overcomes Odds, Sails to Top of Class

Xander Moss, 11, had two brain surgeries before turning one

A stroke-like trauma in utero and two brain surgeries before turning one are among the telling details in the medical history of Xander Moss.

The Central Saanich youngster, who turns 12 in July, endured the surgeries in response to a rare condition – one to two per 1,000 newborns are diagnosed – called hydrocephalus. Also called water on the brain, the condition is a build up of cerebrospinal fluid causing pressure, potentially leading to brain damage and death.

For Xander, discovery while still in utero allowed doctors to treat it before the pressure became too great. The surgeries led neurosurgeons to discover the stroke-like trauma, which probably happened in utero and may have caused the hydrocephalus.

None of the lingering effects have stopped Xander from challenging himself and helping others along way, as recently recognized by the Navy League Cadet Corps (NLCC) Admiral Martin, based in North Saanich.

Xander was named top cadet for Vancouver Island with the Division Cadet of the Year award during the annual ceremonial review held June 16 over Zoom. Xander, who holds the rank of Petty Officer First Class, received a Navy League Cadet Medal of Excellence award that served as a nomination for the Cadet of the Year. He also earned the Commanding Officer’s Shield and the Perfect Attendance Award.  “I’m really proud of my awards, and that this was the best year ever,” said Moss in a phone interview with the Peninsula News Review.

During the annual review Chief Petty Officer Second Class Jack Coles of North Saanich won the Division President’s Award and the Commanding Officer’s Award, while Petty Officer Second Class Pyper Mae Johnson of Central Saanich was promoted to Petty Officer First Class and earned the corps award for Best Cadet.

“I’m very happy to receive these two awards, they are a great honour, and I look forward to leading the cadet corps again next year,” Coles said.

“I value the opportunity to have these experiences with my fellow cadets,” Johnson said. “I like that I am helping my community while having fun. It’s important to remember our veterans and what makes Canada the beautiful country it is.”

Not surprisingly, Xander’s mother Rachel Moss was bursting with pride. “We are certainly very proud of him. He has come a long way and we credit the cadet program with a lot of his personal growth in the last few years.”

She credits the cadet experience with helping Xander in other ways as well. Due to his condition, Xander’s gross and fine motor skill development has been challenged. He has worn glasses since he was two because of nystagmus, or shaking in his eyes. “While Xander still struggles with some fine motor skills such as writing, his gross motor skills have improved immensely since he joined the program,” Rachel said. She added that Xander has neither required physiotherapy nor occupational therapy since 2018 and his participation in range has helped reduce the nystagmus in his eyes.

Xander has also proven himself as a teacher for junior cadets and looks forward to his next challenge, once he joins the Royal Canadian Sea Cadets next year. “I’m looking forward to learning how to use a boat,” he said.