Brianna, 8

BriannaSYSBrianna’s life started normally. She was a typically developing child that was walking and talking. After her first birthday, she was violently shaken and brought to the hospital near death. She suffered a stroke, moderate brain damage, and post traumatic epilepsy. Fortunately, a very talented neurosurgeon saved her life. She now has a VP shunt. However, after that abuse, she could no longer walk, crawl or talk.

That was how she arrived at our house as a foster child at the age of 14 months. The doctors were unable to tell us if she would ever be able to carry on a conversation with us or be able to ever function independently.  We were in love with Brianna and decided we would take a leap of faith and adopt her.

Brianna is a survivor and a determined young lady. There were many hard years and challenges, but with answered prayer, Brianna is thriving in a Classical Christian private school. She is loving, kind, funny, bright, emphatic, giving, thoughtful and simply wonderful. Through years of hard physical, occupational and speech therapy, she is able to do most things that typically developing children can do. She still has physical challenges but she has a heart of gold.

When Brianna was 7.5 she started having tremendous difficulty processing her adoption story. She was very angry, upset, and confused. She was even running away on a daily basis and was worried that we were going to give her away.

Fortunately, her physical therapist introduced us to Kid President. Brianna started watching the “Awesome” project videos and we read the Guide To Being Awesome together. We then proceeded to try to change the world through our own “Awesome” projects.

One day, I asked Brianna what she wanted to do for her next awesome project and she replied, “I want to have a party for special needs kids and I want to tell each and every one of them that they are wonderfully made.”

I was so proud of her for her thoughtfulness and loving heart. This proud mama had tears of joy and a smile on my face. I told her “You bet.”

We are holding a carnival on October 3rd at the Hays YMCA. The carnival will benefit children with brain injuries suffered after birth as well as local flood survivors. Since the Memorial Day flooding, Brianna has been helping me assist flood survivors by helping me collect food, run errands with the survivors and assist with raising money.

Brianna also has a band, Beautiful Minds, which will be competing in the Battle of the Bands. This fundraiser will also be supporting children with brain injuries.

She prays often for our sweet friends and remarks often that she wants to end suffering and change the world. I tell her she is already doing it.

Over the last couple of months, Brianna and I have been thrust into the center of a political battle in Texas over Medicaid cuts. Last spring when the state legislature passed our budget here in Texas, it included an amendment (Rider 50) that instructed the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to cut Medicaid reimbursement rates by a certain dollar amount each year of the two-year budget in order to contain costs overall. The most drastic cuts, so deep they will eliminate access to care, were to one group—acute care therapy services –speech therapy, physical therapy and occupational therapy for disabled children and the elderly.

Texas based pediatric home health therapy providers, along with several patient families, including ours, are locked in a legal battle with the state of Texas to prevent the cuts in Medicaid reimbursement rates of pediatric therapy services for autistic and developmentally disabled children. We have been interviewed by reporters and spent the other day talking to our legislators. Through all of this, Brianna has shown her passion for helping others and her own resilience and strength. Without her therapists that worked with her along the way, she would not be the extremely loving, passionate, empathetic, funny, smart and beautiful girl she is today. So this is a cause she and I consider “Awesome.”

Her dad and I feel extremely blessed to be her parents. She is the greatest gift we could ever ask for. We consider ourselves the very proud parents of a survivor who wants to and will change the world.

Read about the current lobbying efforts of Dena and Brianna here:

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