Hear Braeden's story,
as featured on KS95 For Kids.
Update: Braeden loves the outdoors and hunting is one of his passions, however, it can't easily be done from a wheelchair. This spring, Braeden was able to take a much-anticipated turkey hunting trip with the United Special Sportsmen Alliance (USSA) an organization that helps kids with special needs have outdoor adventures.
That's how Michelle describes her son Braeden's attitude toward living with the most severe form of spina bifida. It was Michelle's similar mindset just 12 years ago that saved Braeden's life.
Mom's Determination Defies Grim Prognosis
Michelle was thrilled when she discovered she was expecting her first child. But her excitement quickly turned to fear when an ultrasound revealed hydrocephalus (water on the brain) and spina bifida (a condition in which the spine doesn't develop properly). "I cried for days," she remembers. "It felt like everything I'd hoped for was slipping away."
But instead of giving up, Michelle took action. She searched - and found - answers, becoming one of the first 20 women to participate in Vanderbilt University's Management of Myelomeningocele Study (MOMS), which researched the effectiveness of making spinal repairs before birth. Braeden was born seven weeks later.
"It Wasn't Scary Anymore"
Michael Partington, M.D., a Gillette neurosurgeon, examined Braeden shortly after his birth - and offered much-needed words of hope. "Dr. Partington said to me, 'Don't look at this as a death sentence. Look at it as a life,'" says Michelle. "He saw Braeden as a person, not just a diagnosis."
Although she initially felt apprehensive, early visits to Gillette offered continued reassurance. "Everyone was so sweet, so welcoming," Michelle recalls. "It felt like family. Suddenly, it wasn't scary anymore."
A Confident Young Man
Today, Braeden has undergone more than 30 surgeries to treat his hydrocephalus and to correct problems with his bones and joints. Throughout that time, says Michelle, Gillette has not only helped Braeden stay healthy and active - it's also shaped the independence and determination he displays today. "To hear from doctors that 'you can do anything!' or 'you should go for it!' speaks volumes to Braeden," she says. "It's a whole team that's choosing to believe in you."
"Gillette is our second home," concludes Michelle. "It's the children's hospital equivalent of the Mall of America - we can get everything we need and more."