Thursday, February 6, 2014

Mission: Unbeatable Mom Case#2 – Holly Stringer – By Rachelle

Before I share their story, I have to say that, although I don’t know them well, this family sits in my heart every single day. They are in all of my prayers, and I think of them and their situation often. When Hilary and I started Mission: Unbeatable Mom, Holly Stringer was the first person that came to my mind. I wish so badly that I could change her and her husband Royce’s circumstance, but since I can’t, I want to do at least a little something to bring her a day of joy.

Holly chose a day at the spa – mani/pedi, facial, massage – all the girly things that most of us moms want but can’t seem to justify doing.

I would absolutely love some kind of spa day,” she said. “I've never really had a complete spa day before, but I do love massages and I've heard facials are great. I enjoy getting my nails done but these are all things I wound normally never spend the time and money on for myself.”

Holly has a good heart, a contagious smile, and a faith that keeps her going.

Here is her story (in my words).

My brother has been friends with Royce Stringer for more than 15 years, a friendship that started in high school. I’ve met him several times, as well as his wife, Holly, and they are one of those tight-knit couples that you feel instantly comfortable with, like you’ve known them forever. High school sweethearts, Royce and Holly have been married for 10 years and have two boys - four-year old Karson and 1 ½-year old Brennan.

When Brennan was six months old, he was a strong, healthy boy, sitting up on his own and doing all of the expected baby things his brother had done just three years before. And then, changes began to occur with their son; by nine months, he had lost his ability to sit up, roll over, and hold his bottle. Doctors determined that he had low muscle tone, but after some physical therapy, Brennan’s posture started to improve. He was reaching for toys and making eye contact; doing all the things that told Royce and Holly he was on his way to recovery – except that he was having trouble eating his food. Their therapist grew more and more concerned before suggesting some follow-up testing.

In Royce and Holly’s words, here is the rest of their story: 

“We were completely unprepared for what was to come. On a nice warm summer day, we took Brennan down to Phoenix Children's Hospital for his first swallow study.  We had the whole day planned… quick swallow test, a nice lunch and then shopping with the boys. It was about a week before Brennan's first birthday and we were preparing for a big celebration at home.  After the swallow study, the speech pathologist that performed the test took us in a small conference room to discuss their findings.  She said, ‘Do you know what aspiration means?’ and then followed with, ‘Do you understand that you cannot safely feed your child?’  We just looked at each other in disbelief. How could this be?  We fed Brennan for the first year of his life with no problems. How could he be aspirating his food?  And so it began.  They admitted us to the hospital for an NG-Tube. 
They ran test after test on Brennan trying to find a cause for all of his low muscle tone.  Muscular tests, genetic testing, lab work was sent out looking for things like muscular dystrophy, spinal muscular atrophy, etc.  But they couldn't find an answer. 
We returned home scared and shaken, but celebrated Brennan's birthday with smiles.  Brennan could no longer sit, roll, sign, etc.  We quickly made tube feedings a part of our normal routine and continued in therapy with him.  After a few months, he started to ‘come back.’  He was sitting a little, moving better and gaining weight nicely.  But while reading a bedtime story to the boys in September, Brennan began to have a seizure.  He had never had a seizure before.  We called 911 and had Brennan to our local hospital in a matter of minutes.  This seizure would not subside - it took over 30 minutes for them to stop it.  We were transported to Phoenix Children's Hospital and spent a week undergoing testing.  We were fortunate to have a great neurologist who was determined to find an answer.  He told us he would be testing us for some rare genetic disorders, like Krabbe's Disease.  He warned us that some of these diseases were bad and could be terminal.  Testing for some of these rare disorders can take weeks so the neurologist sent us home and told us that he would be in touch regarding the test results.
On September 24th, 2013, at 14 months of age, Brennan was diagnosed with Infantile Tay-Sachs Disease.  Our neurologist explained that such disease has been terminal in all children, with most children not living past the age of four.  There is currently no cure and little treatment.  We were glad to finally have an answer, but devastated by the diagnosis.  Brennan, whose name means ‘Brave’, went from being a seemingly healthy little boy, sitting up and saying ‘Mamma,’ to being completely immobile and suffering from a life-threatening disease in only a matter of a few months.
However, we believe that there is something bigger than this disease and that is our mighty Lord in Heaven.  He is greater than any diagnosis, and He will have the final say.  God can do great things in tragedy and we pray for a miracle.  We know God has a plan for our little Brennan and we trust in Him.”
This story is surely sitting heavy on your hearts as you read it, so, together, let’s do something about it. Let’s give Holly a day she will always remember; a day that will rejuvenate her spirit; a day where the only thing she has to worry about is being pampered.
"Most days, I just power through and tell myself I don't need any special time, but occasionally, when I have time alone for myself, I realize how important it is and how much I really do enjoy it," Holly said.  

10% of the money raised during Holly's fundraiser will go to a charity of her choice (TBD).


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