Grandson Ben’s dad reminded us that it was three years ago today that 6-year-old Ben’s medical journey began. This journey would see him diagnosed as a 3-year-old with dural arteriovenous fistula, a vascular malformation in the brain that was potentially fatal. And it would take him to several hospitals and through 3 brain surgeries. Today, he is a happy, healthy, thoughtful, kind young man who plays sports, enjoys school, and is about to celebrate his 7th birthday.
Here is what Ben’s dad posted today:
And here is Ben (with dark hair) with his dad and his friends Carter and Cameron:
It’s been three months since I last posted about grandson Ben, and since then our family has faced a serious medical situation.
Ben and his mom were visiting for the weekend when my husband, Ben’s G-Pa, had a major stroke last month. The situation could have been quite frightening for a six-year-old boy, but Ben showed no sign of distress.
Because he idolizes emergency workers and because he, himself, has been transported by ambulance, Ben welcomed the EMTs as they came to treat his G-Pa. As G-Pa was being taken out of the house on a gurney, Ben stood ramrod straight and saluted his grandfather the way soldiers, firefighters and police officers salute a fallen comrade. I will never forget that sight as long as I live.
His own time spent in hospitals has made Ben very aware of proper hospital etiquette. Though he spent many hours at the hospital while G-Pa was there, both in the emergency room and in G-Pa’s hospital room, he exhibited model behavior and acted in quite an adult manner. I was very proud of him.
Over the course of G-Pa’s hospitalization and immediately after he came home, both daughters and all three grandchildren visited, coming and going and coming back again. Ben was able to visit with the two cousins he rarely gets to see.
He loved being with cousin Kylie who flew in twice from Florida…
And cousin Jessie who flew in from Boston where she attends college…
Here’s the entire group (minus me) with G-Pa after he returned home…
As always, please keep Ben and our entire family in your thoughts and prayers.
We are very proud of grandson Ben who was honored yesterday by getting to Walk the Blue Carpet at his school. In a special ceremony, Ben was given an award for “Excellence in Choosing Success and Trying Your Best.” He loves school and is doing so well.
We were not able to be there, but his dad’s parents surprised Ben by attending the ceremony. They both have had serious health problems and have not been able to attend many of his sports or school events lately. He was very excited to see them there.
Ben’s mom was so proud of him and videoed our miracle boy as he made his way down the blue carpet.
We visited Ben’s family last weekend and attended his Saturday morning basketball game. Ben is running much better lately even though he has not been going to physical therapy as often as before. Playing sports is good for him! And he scored the first basket of the game!
Getting ready for Christmas
The plan last weekend was to do a Friday night Walk Through Bethlehem which was to feature a live nativity scene. However the temperature was in the 20s Fahrenheit (below 0 degrees Celsius), and the organizers postponed the live event due to the cold (we’re not used to the cold here in the South). Instead, they had a bonfire, hay ride, and cookies and hot cocoa with Santa.
Ben thoroughly enjoyed himself and began singing as we headed for the car to go home, although he did stop walking long enough for one more photo.
We had another encounter with Santa while shopping at a boutique the following day.
This Santa was as country as cornbread, convinced Ben to ask for a dirt bike for Christmas, and informed us that Ben should leave snickerdoodle cookies out for Santa himself on Christmas Eve and chocolate covered cherries for Santa’s reindeer. What a hoot!
We are looking forward to Christmas with this little guy!
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…
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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…
Each lap completed was marked off on the back of the children’s T-shirts.
And here’s a very short video (only about 5 seconds) of our little guy participating in the run…
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…
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.
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)…
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.
While we were there, Ben showed us his new lunchbox for school, which of course is shaped like a police car.
And his backpack for school celebrates the men and women he idolizes, officers of the New York Police Department.
School starts Monday. We wish our little guy a happy, healthy, fun-filled school year ahead!
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.
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.
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!