Another soccer season, an air show, and a prayer request

Soccer

Ben’s indoor soccer team ended their Fall season a couple of weeks ago by playing the same team they were playing earlier in the season when Ben was hit in the nose and knocked to the floor by a soccer ball.  We were worried then because our little guy has undergone three brain surgeries, but he wasn’t badly hurt, and thankfully, there were no injuries this time.  (I posted previously about that injury here.)

The team celebrated their season with treats and trophies…

 

We were very happy to be able to attend this last game.  Even though I was not feeling well, I was able to take some photos, and I put together this video…

An exciting time at an air show

Last weekend Ben’s parents took him to the Wings Over North Georgia air show.  Even though he was not feeling well that day (it turned out that he had strep throat), he had a wonderful time.  Not only was it exciting to watch the show, but he had fun climbing in a military helicopter and into the cockpit of a C-130 transport plane like the one on which his uncle flew while serving in the U.S. Air Force.

The highlight of the air show was seeing the Thunderbirds,  the air demonstration squadron of the U.S. Air Force.  The Thunderbirds Squadron tours the United States performing aerobatic formation and solo flying in specially marked aircraft. They take their name from the legendary Thunderbird that appears in the mythologies of several indigenous North American cultures.

 

Ben was lucky enough to have his photo made with two of the Thunderbird pilots…

wings-over-north-georgia-thunderbirds

 

A request for prayers and good thoughts

Please keep Ben’s other grandparents in your thoughts and prayers.  They both are facing serious medical issues.  They live closer to Ben than we do and have been so instrumental in his young life.  He is not aware of how serious their medical conditions are.

Thanks to everyone who has asked about Ben recently.  Please continue to send out good thoughts and prayers on his behalf.

#BenStrong   #Soli Deo Gloria

Advertisements

A hit in the nose, Career Day, and an 88th birthday

Hit in the nose

Of all the players to get smacked in the nose by a soccer ball it would have to be the one who had three brain surgeries!  Nonetheless, our little guy is doing great.  Ben plays on the youngest and physically smallest soccer team in his league, and when an older, bigger player kicked the ball right into his face, he was knocked backwards onto the ground.  An X-ray showed no broken nose, only some bruising.  We are so grateful for that good news!

hit-in-the-nose

 

Career Day

Ben is in first grade, and when asked how school is going he always says, “Good.”  When asked what he likes best about school he always says, “Playing outside.”  But his mom says he loves to learn and is a diligent student.  That’s music to this teacher/grandma’s ears.  His class recently had a Career Day, and students were encouraged to come to school dressed for the occasion.  Of course, Ben dressed as a New York City police officer.  Our family is so thankful for the kindness showed by the NY Police Department, especially the 20th Precinct, to the children at the Ronald McDonald House in Manhattan the last time Ben was there.

nypd

 

An 88th birthday

Not all children have the opportunity to know their great-grandparents, but Ben has been blessed to know two of his. He was only 3 years old when his great-grandmother (my mother) passed away.  I’m sure his memories of her now are only dim ones, but he loved her and enjoyed spending time with her when she was alive. He knows his great-grandfather (my father) well, loves him much,  and helped him celebrate his 88th birthday last weekend.

88th-birthday-3

Ben is doing great.  He continues with physical therapy once a month.  Please keep him and his mom and dad in your thoughts and prayers.

#BenStrong   #Soli Deo Gloria

Our Little Trooper Continues To Inspire Others !

Almost a year and a half ago Ben, who was only 4 years old at the time,  was given his chance of a lifetime to run for a touchdown with a high school football team.  We were humbled and amazed at everything the team did for him, and Ben’s story appeared in newspapers, on television, and on websites worldwide.

Having undergone two surgeries for a vascular malformation in his brain, Ben would undergo one more after his football experience.  His condition had been life threatening and as a result, our little guy never will be able to play American football.

It was in May, 2015 when Ben ran for the touchdown, and it was in August, 2015 that his story became more widely known.  So imagine my surprise when one of my former students sent me this yesterday.  Television channel 2 in Atlanta featured Ben’s story in their sports blog three days ago!

capture

This is the link to the sports blog, and Ben’s story is about halfway down the page. http://www.wsbtv.com/sports/high-school-football/high-school-football-tonights-schedule-biggest-hit-youll-ever-see/442102680

The video featured is the one posted online in 2015 by MaxPreps (40 seconds)…

I have written a number of blog posts about Ben’s football experience.  If you are a new follower and are interested in reading more, here are the posts.

The Touchdown of His Life

He has the ball

 

A Whole Lot of Football Love about the football referees who love and support Ben

football-referees-with-ben

 

Ben’s Football Video: Going Viral?, posted after we became aware of the MaxPreps video that was online

 

maxpreps

 

Ben Is Getting National Media Attention about American news outlets picking up Ben’s story

NBC story

 

A Television Interview With Our Little Trooper, posted after Chattanooga, Tennessee TV station Channel 9 interviewed Ben (click on the link to actually see the interview)

Chattanooga Channel 9

 

Some Great News For Our Little Celebrity, written after we became aware that Ben’s story was touching people around the world

Brazil

 

Another Football Honor and Some Soccer Fun For Our Kind-Hearted Kindergartener about Ben’s being made an honorary team captain by the Murray County High School (Georgia) football team

Waiting on the sideline

Waiting on the sideline

It is amazing that after all of this time Ben’s story is once again making the rounds.  Thanks to all who have told his story, to all who have stood by the family with prayers and support, and to all who read my blog and keep Ben in your thoughts and prayers.

#BenStrong   #Soli Deo Gloria

Fun Run

Last week our little trooper participated in a fundraising Fun Run at his school. Students ran laps around a designated course, and family and friends pledged specific amounts of money per lap.  I must admit that this grandmother was nervous about Ben’s running for such a distance because he has a tendency to sometimes trip and fall. (He still goes to physical therapy and wears a brace on his foot at night.)  But Brave Ben doesn’t let anything stop him.

Fun run #1

Very excited to run in this event, he set himself a goal of 30 laps.  He was on his 31st lap when the time clock stopped the run!  Because he had secured substantial pledges from friends and family members, he raised a nice amount of money for his school.

We were not able to be there, so his mom took photos of the event.  In the group photos, Ben is the one in sunglasses and wearing red shorts…

 

And here’s a very short video (only about 5 seconds) of our little guy participating in the run…

We are very proud of our Brave Ben!

#BenStrong   #Soli Deo Gloria

Beginning First Grade

Three years ago our little trooper’s life was in danger, and we did not know what lay ahead for him.  This week he began first grade!  We thank you all for your prayers for and support of Ben these past three years, and we thank Dr. Alejandro Berenstein in New York for the vascular neurosurgery that saved Ben’s life.  Most of all we thank God for His healing grace.

Ben’s mom took these photos (one is a selfie of herself with Ben) on his first day of school…

#BenStrong   #Soli Deo Gloria

 

The Storm That Took Us to Ben’s House

We hadn’t planned to go to Ben’s house.  The plan was to visit with him and his mom at our usual meeting place halfway between our house and theirs.  Whenever we keep Ben’s little dog while the family is on vacation, we meet at the Dairy Queen in Ellijay, GA where we can sit outside in a lovely gazebo by the river and enjoy a hotdog and ice cream.

Dairy Queen food

On Monday we did meet there to return Ben’s dog, had a lovely visit, and then headed to our separate homes. It was a beautiful evening, and the sun was shining.

However, we had driven only a few miles when we found ourselves in the middle of a terrible storm.  The sky was black as pitch; rain was pelting down; and I (the driver) could hardly see the roadway.  The wind picked up and became straight-line wind, blowing the rain sideways across the highway.  Like a tunnel through the forest at the best of times, the curvy highway is only two lanes.  It looks a lot like this highway (which also happens to be near our home)…

Photo credit: tailofthedragontours.com

Photo credit: tailofthedragontours.com

As trees on either side began to bend and blow, I said a quick prayer that no branches would break off and fly across the highway, hitting our car.

No sooner had I said the prayer than we saw the lights of vehicles ahead, some on one side of the highway, some on the other, some sitting in the middle of the road.  We could see some headlights and some taillights.  A large tree had fallen across the entire highway, and no one was able to travel in either direction.

We had several choices:

  • sit there in the car in the storm and wait for the Georgia Department of Transportation to arrive and remove the tree which could take several hours
  • turn around and go back to Ellijay and find a motel
  • go back to Ellijay and pick up the only other highway that would get us home, a trip that would take us far to the north and then back down through the same storm and would add at least two hours to our travel time
  • turn around and drive an hour to our daughter’s house and spend the night there

Needless to say, we went to our daughter’s where we stayed the night, received some good news about Ben’s physical therapy, and were able to see his new gear for school which begins next week.

The good news is that Ben’s range of motion in his left foot is improving.  On a scale on 1 to 10, with 10 being where the physical therapists would like Ben to be, he is at 7.  The improvement is thanks to physical therapy, the normal running and playing of a six-year-old boy, and the brace that he wears on his foot at night.  

He's such a good sport about wearing the brace!  But we quickly learned that he cannot wear pajamas with short pants, as the velcro on the brace scratches his other leg while he is sleeping.

Ben's brace 1-2

 

While we were there, Ben showed us his new lunchbox for school, which of course is shaped like a police car.

Police car lunch box

 

And his backpack for school celebrates the men and women he idolizes, officers of the New York Police Department.

NYPD backpack 2

 

NYPD backpack

School starts Monday.  We wish our little guy a happy, healthy, fun-filled school year ahead!

#BenStrong   #Soli Deo Gloria

A Surprise Package for Ben from New York’s Finest !!

A few days ago, Ben received a surprise package from the 20th Precinct of the New York Police Department. According to his dad, Ben literally was speechless!   He tore into the box and found inside the package an official NYPD hat, an authentic NYPD hooded sweatshirt, a NYPD baseball, and NYPD stickers.

NYPD gifts

 

There also was a handwritten note from Police Lieutenant Noreen Lazarus!  She is the officer who gave Ben one of her dress blue shirts last month when Ben visited the Precinct. That day last month was one of the most exciting and memorable in Ben’s life.  Officers from the 20th Precinct treated families staying at the New York Ronald McDonald House to a boat trip on the Hudson River and then cooked dinner for them.  You can read more about that day here.

The Shirt

Ben in the shirt given to him in June by Lt. Lazarus

We are honored and humbled that a member of the NYPD would take such an interest in our little Brave Ben here in Georgia and would send him a letter and a box full of gear.  I echo the words of Ben’s dad in saying to the NYPD, and especially the 20th Precinct and Lt. Noreen Lazarus, THANK YOU for taking an active part in the life of a little boy who idolizes each of you!

20th Precinct

#BenStrong   #Soli Deo Gloria

800 Days

Ben’s aunt and two cousins came to visit last week, and while they were here Ben made an interesting announcement.  He told us that it had been exactly 800 days from the day he received the diagnosis, as a 3-year-old, of a Dural Arteriovenous Fistula (vascular abnormality in his brain) until the day he was pronounced cured by Dr. Berenstein in New York.  Eight hundred days! Exactly! (His dad did the calculation.)

Ben with his two cousins, our granddaughters Jessie and Kylie

Ben with his two cousins, our granddaughters Jessie and Kylie

 

Ben doesn’t get to see these two girls very often, and he didn’t want them to leave.  We are grateful to them for their love for him and their support of him.

A year ago this month Jessie, rather than asking for birthday gifts for herself, asked people to donate to a fund to help with Ben’s medical expenses.  Here’s what she posted yesterday:

J's update on Ben

Ben's cousins Kylie and Jessie, his mom, Ben, and his Aunt Chris

 Cousins Kylie and Jessie, Ben’s mom, Ben, and his Aunt Chris

 

#BenStrong   #Soli Deo Gloria

Home with his most prized possession

Brave Ben came home from New York a little over two weeks ago, bringing with him an item that now is his most prized possession.  We saw it for the first time when he and his parents came to visit this past weekend to celebrate his mom’s birthday…

After receiving his clean bill of health from Dr. Berenstein in New York, Ben had a couple of days to celebrate before flying back home.  His family joined other families staying at the Ronald McDonald House for a bus tour of New York City.  And he visited the Sweet Shop where he could indulge his sweet tooth…

The Sweet Shop

 

But the excursion that had him more excited than Christmas and his birthday put together was an outing sponsored by the New York City Police Department, specifically the 20th Precinct.  Ronald McDonald families were treated to a boat trip on the Hudson River and were taken back to the precinct where the NYPD cooked dinner for them and let the children sit behind the police desk and on police motorcycles and horses and dress in protective gear.

 

Behind the police desk

 

Our little guy posed with Chief Murtagh and was even featured in the 20th Precinct’s Twitter post on June 10.

Posing with the Police Chief

20th Precinct Twitter feed

20th Precinct Twitter feed 2

Ben was in seventh heaven, and it was here that he was given his most prized possession.  One of the female officers from the 20th gave him one of her NYPD shirts!  Here he is wearing the shirt back at the Ronald McDonald House…

The Shirt

(He was so excited to receive this gift that he even wore it to church this past Sunday!)

Back at home in Georgia a day after the excursion, Ben found several welcome messages from his sweet neighbor…

Our little trooper is glad that he doesn’t have to return to the hospital in New York, but he’s going to miss the Ronald McDonald House and all of the wonderful people there…

He's going to miss the Ronald McDonald house

#BenStrong   #Soli Deo Gloria

Brave Ben is cured !!!

Original tweet

This tweet says it all!  It was posted yesterday on Twitter by Dr. Thomas Oxley, neurologist and  neurointervention fellow working with Ben’s doctor, Dr. Alejandro Berenstein, at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.  As Ben’s mom said, “What a journey for a really little boy and a really Big God!”

Grandson Ben’s journey began in 2014 when he was rushed first to Erlanger Children’s Hospital in Chattanooga, TN and then to Scottish Rite (Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta) in Atlanta, GA where he was diagnosed with dural AV fistula, a vascular malformation in his brain.  He was only three years old.  Although doctors at Scottish Rite diagnosed the condition, they honestly admitted they could not treat it.  At Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, doctors told the family that without treatment Ben would die and that they could do neurosurgery, but the odds were not good.  We were told that Ben had a 50% chance of suffering a stroke during surgery or that he could die on the table.

My readers who have been following Ben’s story know that Ben’s dad contacted Dr. Berenstein, the New York physician who pioneered the procedure that would save Ben’s life.  Dr. B. said Ben would not die, and the chance of his having a stroke was only 5%, not 50%.  Just after Ben’s fourth birthday, Dr. B. performed two endovascular surgeries, the first to place tiny platinum coils in the fistula, and the second to further close it off with medical grade “super glue.”

The annual check up a year later showed that the original fistula had reopened, and a new fistula had formed.  Dr. B. again performed surgery in what was described as a life-threatening situation.

Yesterday Ben (now six years old) underwent a cerebral angiogram as part of this year’s check up.  His mom reported that he was in good spirits before the procedure…

Before the angiogram

Ben and his dad before yesterday’s angiogram

 

The procedure lasted about two hours, and our little trooper was required to lie still for six hours afterwards…

In recovery

 

While Ben was in recovery, his parents received the good news. The original fistula is completely gone.  The blood flow has been re-routed.  The new fistula that was developing last year is gone as a result of decreased pressure in the brain…

Collage

 

BEN HAS BEEN GIVEN A CLEAN BILL OF HEALTH !!!  There is no need for anymore annual trips to New York unless additional problems arise. There is nothing more except for an MRI in five years!

Ben is healed

From left: Dr. Thomas Oxley, Ben’s mom (our daughter), Brave Ben, Dr. Alejandro Berenstein, and Ben’s dad.

 

Ben wants to go back to New York for a visit sometime in the future, and he already has expressed sadness that he will not be able to stay at the Ronald McDonald House, which has been his home away from home and has provided his family with so much love and support…

Ronald McDonald House

 

There is no way to express the gratitude we all feel, gratitude to Dr. Berenstein and his team for healing our little guy, gratitude to everyone who has kept Ben in their thoughts and prayers, and most of all gratitude to God for all He has done. One of Ben’s favorite Scripture verses sums up what God has done for this little guy:

 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”   (Jeremiah 29:11 )

 

Soon after arriving at the Ronald McDonald House this week Ben went into the music room, picked up a guitar, and began to sing one of his favorite songs, “In the Eye of the Storm.”  Here is the YouTube video of the original recording of that song.  May it’s message comfort others as much as it has comforted our Brave Ben…

 

#Ben Strong       Soli Dei Gloria !