Family Advocacy Day First Person -- Brandon's Story
‘Never Give Up, Never Back Down, and Never Lose Faith’
By Sheri Wittrock
Our son Brandon, now 17, was born at just 25 weeks gestation and weighed only 1 pound, 13 ounces. As Brandon struggled with multiple health issues, including cerebral palsy (a movement disorder that results from brain damage at birth) and hydrocephalus (excess fluid on the brain), we struggled to get the answers we needed. We were suddenly faced with questions, fears and lifestyle changes we had never anticipated. For instance, one doctor told me that if I didn’t stay home with Brandon (I was employed full-time prior to his birth) he would likely pass away.
It was only when our family discovered Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare in St. Paul, Minn. — a specialty-care pediatric hospital less than 30 minutes from our home—that we began to find answers. At Gillette, they listened to us. They took the information we gave them, along with their vast experience treating children, like Brandon, who have disabilities, and finally gave us the clarity we had been seeking.
Cerebral palsy and hydrocephalus are complex medical issues that can, and often do, work against each other. If Brandon’s shunt (a device that is implanted in the brain to treat hydrocephalus) is not working correctly, it affects the way he walks and his cognitive abilities. Without his team of specialists at Gillette, Brandon’s issues could have easily been misdiagnosed.
The ability to see multiple pediatric specialists in a coordinated setting is vital for Brandon’s well-being. When we first began coming to Gillette, Brandon struggled to achieve milestones for his age. We have since seen our son progress from a cognitively delayed child to, today, a highly motivated and engaging teenager. The access to care we have had at Gillette has given our family the tools, skills, information and medical advancements to help Brandon have the best possible quality of life. We firmly believe that Brandon would not be here today without access to specialty pediatric care at Gillette—and we’re honored to represent Gillette as part of Speak Now for Kids Family Advocacy Day.
No one can predict what may happen with a child that has as many complications as Brandon. Yet even when faced with challenges you or I could never imagine going through, Brandon’s strength and positive attitude have never faltered. It’s fitting that his life motto is “never give up, never back down, and never lose faith."