Inspired by Braelyn
“Usually, when you think of a role model or someone who inspires you, they’re older than you,” said Braelyn’s mom, Heather. “To me, a role model is someone who has done something amazing and causes you to do the same. Braelyn has inspired me since she was a young girl.”
When she was five years old, Braelyn was diagnosed with a blood vessel abnormality called a cavernous angioma on her brain stem. To remove it, she underwent life-threatening surgery and intense therapy. Six years later, a recovered Braelyn and her family received the news that a second cavernous angioma was found on her brain stem in the same spot as the first. This meant undergoing the same life-threatening surgery and another slow and extensive recovery.
“Her father and I were devastated and at a loss for words,” said Heather. “Braelyn looked at Gregg and me as we couldn’t hold back the tears and said, ‘It’s going to be okay. I’ve done this once, and I’ll do it again.'”
After Braelyn’s surgery at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, her parents knew recovering at an inpatient rehabilitation facility was the next step. Still, they weren’t sure they would find a reputable children’s facility near their home in Knoxville, IA. That’s when their social worker pointed them to ChildServe.
“Through the power of social media, my husband and I researched, reference-checked and got nothing but positive feedback about ChildServe,” Heather said. “We knew it was the place for us to continue Braelyn’s recovery.”
When Braelyn and her mom arrived at ChildServe‘s inpatient rehabilitation program, Braelyn was on a ventilator, had a tracheostomy and g-tube, and was so weak she could hardly speak or move her arms. This didn’t stop her from entering ChildServe‘s doors with a smile.
Mattel, the creator of UNO, was so moved by Braelyn’s story that they designed a version of her favorite game inspired by her!
“From the moment we walked in the door, we had the entire team greet us, and they had a bed waiting for Braelyn,” said Heather. “After arriving, Braelyn was told about a name tag game they were doing that day. She had to pick how she was feeling and the last thing she ate. She chose Fantastic Chocolate PopTart as her name. I was tearful with joy to see her smiling face at a place so inviting that didn’t feel like a hospital anymore.”
During her 50 days at ChildServe, Braelyn regained her daily living skills with support from ChildServe’s inpatient nurses and therapists. When Braelyn went home, she had completely regained her ability to eat and swallow, and was learning to dress herself, brush her hair and teeth, bathe herself, and sit up independently.
“To say ChildServe has been a miracle and major part of Braelyn’s recovery is an understatement,” Heather said. “We wouldn’t be in the same position today if it weren’t with help from the team at ChildServe.”
Braelyn’s journey with ChildServe didn’t stop there. Each week her family drives forty-five minutes to and from ChildServe to get Braelyn the outpatient therapy she needs, and it has been paying off. Braelyn graduated from speech therapy and got her g-tube and her tracheostomy removed. She continues physical and occupational therapy every week.
“Braelyn’s competitive spirit pushed her through,” said ChildServe Physical Therapist, Camielle Peterson. “She rolled through the doors when she was admitted to the unit and she is now walking through those doors!”
Braelyn is getting back to doing the things she loves, like drawing, talking on the phone with her friends and camping with her family. She is doing well in school and continues to inspire her parents and everyone who meets her.
“The way she walks through life one day at a time with a smile and an upbeat attitude is something I strive to do every day to be a better person,” Heather said. “Sometimes things that happen in life aren’t fair, especially to children, but our family is forever grateful for the services and staff at ChildServe and what they’ve done for our daughter.”
ChildServe improves the health and well-being of 5,200 children each year through specialized clinical, home, and community-based programs and services. We serve children with developmental delays, disabilities, injuries, and other special healthcare needs.