Second grade, here he comes!

The new school year began yesterday for our little trooper, and we are so glad Ben received a clean bill of health from Dr. Berenstein before beginning second grade.  (Dr. “B” is Director of the Pediatric Cerebrovascular Program at Mount Sinai Health System in New York.)

The day before classes began, Ben and his Mom attended an open house at the school during which he had the opportunity to meet his teacher.  Before they set out, Mom took this selfie photo …

Open house

 

And here’s 7-year-old Brave Ben ready for his first day of second grade…

2nd grade

 

A couple of weeks ago, we had a lovely visit from Ben and his mom and dad.  He especially wanted to show us some of the souvenirs he received while visiting Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, and he laid it all out for us to see…

Souvenirs from Tyndall Air Base

(The post about that tour of the air base can be read here.)

 

It’s always great to have Ben visit!  He’s a very kind and loving boy and is beloved by many, many people.

Here he is with his grandfather (my husband)…

With G-Pa

And his great grandfather ( my dad)…

With Papa

We all wish Ben much success in 2nd grade!  Thanks to all who have kept him in your thoughts and prayers!

#BenStrong     #Soli Deo Gloria

Yay! Ben is okay!

 

Great news!  The results of MRI and the MRA scans on grandson Ben’s brain were excellent!  There’s no problem with the original fistula repair, and no new fistula has formed. Dr. Berenstein in New York reviewed over 50,000 images and found no problem. Yay!

Thank you, thank you to everyone who has kept Ben and his parents in your thoughts and prayers.

Originally, when Ben was 3 years old, it was a problem with his eye that led his parents to seek out medical care.  Ben was diagnosed with a dural AV fistula (a vascular malformation in the brain) which was causing pressure behind the eye.  His little life was in danger, and he underwent a visit to the children’s hospital in Chattanooga, TN, stays in two children’s hospitals in Atlanta, GA, and three surgeries in New York City by a world-renowned physician before the problem was corrected.  We are so, so grateful to Dr. Berenstein for saving Ben’s life and for continuing to follow up on Ben’s condition.

Recently, his parents noticed a difference in that same eye, and this is what prompted the brain scans.  Now that Dr. Berenstein has given Ben the “all clear” as far as the fistula is concerned, the next step will be an appointment with an ophthalmologist to have Ben’s eyes checked.

Again, thank you to all who have Ben in your thoughts and prayers.  I’ll keep you posted…

#BenStrong       #Soli Deo Gloria

V.I.P. treatment at Tyndall Air Base while waiting on test results

There still is no word on results of the MRI and the MRA on Ben’s brain.  Dr. Berenstein’s office in New York received the images, but Dr. B. was out of town this week.  When he returns he must review over 50,000 images, so we do not expect to hear anything now until next week. In the meantime, Ben has been at the beach with extended family and had an exciting tour of Tyndall Air Force Base which is nearby.

Ben with his sweet cousin, P.

Tyndall Air Force Base is the home of the largest F-22 fighter wing in the Air Force.  The fighter wing trains F-22 Raptor pilots and other personnel for worldwide assignments to combat Air Force units.  It also organizes, equips, and trains a Raptor squadron for immediate worldwide rapid deployment.  Ben’s dad arranged for a tour yesterday, and Ben was able to visit the air traffic control tower (where he actually cleared a pilot for takeoff), meet with F-22 Raptor pilots, attend a service dog demonstration, and eat lunch on the base.

At the air traffic control tower…

 

Clearing a pilot for takeoff…

 

After visiting the control tower, Ben met two pilots from the 95th Fighter Squadron.  The 95th was first activated in 1942 and supported the Allied invasions of North Africa and Italy during World War II.  After the war the squadron was assigned to the Alaskan Air Command and later to the Washington, D.C. area.  In 1974, they were reassigned to Tyndall Air Force Base.  Although they were inactivated in 2010 due to budget constraints, they were reactivated in 2013 and are the new operational F-22 squadron at Tyndall.

The 95th Fighter Squadron is known as the “Boneheads,” and their motto is “Death With Finesse.”

 

Ben posed with “Mr. Bones” …

 

and was given a 95th Fighter Squadron shirt as a souvenir…

 

Two pilots from the 95th Fighter Squadron showed Ben around an F-22 fighter plane and let him try on some of their gear…

 

And of course they posed for the obligatory photos…

 

Lunch on the base was highlighted by a number of souvenirs for our little guy, including this photo signed by some of the F-22 pilots…

 

To everyone at Tyndall Air Base who made this day so special for Ben, his mom would like to say, “What an amazing day for an amazing little boy! A big thank you to Tyndall AFB for allowing us this opportunity and treating us to something so special!”

Please continue to keep Ben and his parents in your thoughts and prayers as we all await the results of his brain scans.

#BenStrong       #Soli Deo Gloria

Waiting on Ben’s Results

The results of  grandson Ben’s brain scans, which were done here in Georgia on Friday, were “over-nighted” by Federal Express to New York where Dr. Berenstein will view them.   Over 57,000 images were taken during the MRI and the MRA. Now all we can do is wait, but we hope to hear results this week.

Before his brain scans Ben was in good spirits and played video games while waiting at the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta facility…

 

Over the past 3 years Ben has had a number of brain scans, but this was the first time that he was not sedated. Here’s what his dad said…

Today was the 1st time Ben has ever attempted to have an MRI/MRA w/o anesthesia. The nurses & lab techs allowed me to pick him up & set him in the “tube”. After having multiple shields & guards placed over him, they told Ben that he “could not move for the duration of the scan”. Over the next hour, he was so uncomfortable that he started to cry but HE NEVER MOVED!!! After everything he’s already overcome, I shouldn’t be surprised by anything he does but this blew me away.

Ben’s dad is the youth minister at the church they attend and was scheduled to take the high school youth group to the Six Flags Over Georgia amusement park the day of Ben’s scans.  He had to ask other people from the church to take the youth to the park and planned to join them after the scans. However, because Ben didn’t have to recover from sedation he was able to go, too, and was very excited…

And the youth group members welcomed Ben with open arms…

Most teens could care less about little kids. NOT MY YOUTH GROUP!!! All 23 ppl who went to 6 Flags today stopped what they were doing & gave Ben a huge hug as soon as they saw him. After lunch, he didn’t want to hang with me. Several members of the youth group offered to stop what they were doing & quit riding the “Big Boy” rides and instead, take Ben to the “Kiddie Rides”. I never asked them to do it….they wanted to!!!

Ben and his parents have now joined extended family on his dad’s side for a beach vacation. However, if after viewing the images sent to him, Dr. Berenstein finds an “emergent situation,”  they may have to leave the beach and travel to New York.  The waiting is the part that is so scary.  As his dad says, “Your prayers have gotten us through the 1st stage of this test but there’s a much bigger hurdle in front of us now. Please DO NOT STOP PRAYING!!!”

Thanks to everyone who is keeping Ben and his family in your thoughts and prayers.

#BenStrong   #Soli Deo Gloria

 

Brave Ben needs your thoughts and prayers

A year ago grandson Ben was declared to be cured of a dural arteriovenous fistula in his brain

…but some problems have recently arisen, and his dad had to contact Dr. Berenstein in New York, the doctor who performed the procedures that saved Ben’s life.  Dr. B. wants Ben to have an MRI scan (Magnetic resonance imaging) and an MRA scan (Magnetic resonance angiogram) as soon as possible.  Those tests are scheduled for Friday.

It goes without saying that we are frightened, especially since Ben was doing so well and had been considered to be completely cured.  Our family is asking for prayers for Ben and for healing thoughts to be sent his way.  If the results of the scans are serious, he will have to make an immediate trip from his home in Georgia (or maybe even from Florida where he will be vacationing next week) to New York City.

My long-time blog followers know Ben’s story.  For my new followers and casual readers, I will give some background: 

Grandson Ben’s journey began in 2014 when, at the age of 3, 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.   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.

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 4th 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.

Last year Ben, then 6 years old, underwent a cerebral angiogram as part of the yearly check up.  While he was in recovery, his parents received the good news. The original fistula was completely gone.  The blood flow had been re-routed.  The new fistula that was developing the previous year also was gone as a result of decreased pressure in the brain.

But now we don’t know what to expect.

Please remember Ben on Friday and send your thoughts and prayers his way.

He has had a good year since being pronounced cured and recently completed first grade in school and celebrated his 7th birthday.  He is a bright little guy who enjoys school, plays sports, loves music, and has a strong personal religious faith.

A few photos taken by Ben’s mom as he finished up the school year…

With his silly glasses and the little girl who has been his “girlfriend” since pre-K

 

Last day of first grade

 

 

And a few birthday photos…

The birthday party featured a water slide and other outdoor water fun

 

The party had a Blue Angels theme. The Blue Angels are the flight demonstration squadron of the U.S. Navy.

 

Ben’s most treasured gift was a flight suit like those worn by the Blue Angels aviators. Later, he was very excited to receive a surprise package from a former Blue Angel !

 

This precious child means the world to so many people. We appreciate your healing thoughts and prayers, and we pray that the symptoms Ben has been experiencing will prove to be transient and not indicative of a recurring problem.

(Linking to the DP Challenge today.  We need all the views and all the prayers we can get.)

#BenStrong   #Soli Deo Gloria

 

 

Healthcare in America and Ben’s pre-existing condition

The U.S. is the only industrialized nation in the world that does not provide equal access to healthcare for all citizens. Obamacare expanded healthcare coverage and made it more affordable for many Americans,  but the current Republican-led House of Representatives just voted to gut that coverage.  One of the worst aspects of the House plan is that insurance companies would no longer have to provide coverage for pre-existing conditions. Pre-existing conditions include not only serious medical conditions such as cancer and diabetes but also medical problems like high cholesterol and even pregnancy.  The actual list is quite long.

Many Americans are “up in arms” over what the House of Representatives has done. Bear in mind that the bill also must pass the U.S. Senate, and many believe that is unlikely.  However, I, too, am “up in arms” because our Brave Ben clearly has a pre-existing condition.

Here is what I posted on Facebook about this matter…

Pre-existing condition

This is what a pre-existing condition looks like. Would you like to tell him that he is less deserving of access to healthcare options than others? Giving him limited access to a high risk insurance pool is not the same as allowing him to have health insurance!

Please don’t get distracted by thinking these issues are political. These aren’t issues that need to boil down to voting along party lines. This is about people. Men, women, and children who are more than a label of “pre-existing” condition. This is about people you love in your family. People you see everyday at work. Neighbors. Friends. HUMAN BEINGS. As Christians, as Americans, as humans we are responsible for looking at the people beyond the politics.

This is my grandson Ben. He will turn 7 years old on Friday but already has had 3 brain surgeries for a vascular malformation in his brain. Those surgeries saved his life, and he now excels in school, plays sports, and lives a normal life.

Our President and Members of Congress should work harder at ensuring we all have the right to affordable quality health care! Every life matters. Not just those the insurance companies deem worthy.

This is not about Republicans. Or Democrats. It’s about people. Let’s not let our politicians and media distract us from that. #lovepeople

(Thank you to Jennafer Eddy-Loving who first stated this so beautifully. I borrowed much of her original post.)

Three years ago today the journey began

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:

Capture

Note: TC Thompson is the children’s hospital in Chattanooga, TN.  Scottish-Rite hospital is part of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

 

And here is Ben (with dark hair) with his dad and his friends Carter and Cameron:

 

On April 6, 2014,  I posted my first article about Ben’s medical condition.  That was on my original blog unexpectedincommonhours.wordpress.com.  The article later became the first post of this blog which is devoted entirely to Ben’s continuing journey.  Here’s the link to that original post: https://believingforben.wordpress.com/2014/04/20/smacked-in-the-gut-by-life/.

Many thanks to everyone who has supported Ben and his family during the past three years.  It has been an incredible journey to be sure and one that has had a amazing outcome.

#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