Like most parents, Jeff and Debbie Trussell spend each day trying to raise their family with love and provide for their needs. Unlike most parents, this effort is complicated by the severe medical challenges they face every day with their 9-year-old son Brennan.
Nine years ago doctors told Jeff and Debbie they would not raise their son, that Brennan would not survive birth. On that significant day, Brennan was born with Cerebral Palsy, Dandy-Walker Malformation, and Hydrocephalus. He defied all odds by surviving, and has been doing so every day since then—even amidst compounding problems. At age 2, Brennan developed a seizure disorder, now under control through medication. At age 3, Brennan went into a coma and was diagnosed with type 1 insulin-dependent diabetes. At age 4, Brennan started having asthma symptoms and respiratory issues. By age 6 Brennan was oxygen dependent. In May of 2011 Brennan had to have two tonsillectomies to open his airways and allow him to breathe better. During one of the recoveries he developed a 9mm kidney stone that shut down his kidneys and gave him E. coli. Like clockwork, each year Brennan battles multiple cases of pneumonia.
With each setback, the Trussell family has remained positive and landed on their feet. However, things went terribly wrong this past August when Brennan was admitted to Primary Children’s Medical Center to have a routine surgery. The surgery ended up being anything but routine. Brennan had a hernia in his stomach that ended up being much worse than the doctors thought—his diaphragm had been ripped in two. Brennan spent four days on a ventilator and was then put on a BiPAP machine as the doctors prepared to transition him to his oxygen and then home. Things did not go as planned. After two weeks on BiPAP it was discovered that Brennan’s diaphragm sustained irreversible nerve damage and had paralyzed the right side. He would never breathe on his own again. The family spent nine days making the difficult decision to put in a tracheostomy tube (trach) and bring Brennan home. After five weeks of being in Primary Children’s Medical Center, Brennan’s family was allowed to bring him home.
Now Jeff and Debbie are adjusting to their new life and all of the things the latest changes have brought into their home. However, like many of us, they have been impacted by the prolonged economic downturn and are not in a position to provide some of the changes to their home and vehicles that Brennan’s new condition requires. The financial hardships began when Jeff lost the home construction company he previously owned. Debbie has been courageously holding down a part-time job while still providing for Brennan’s full-time needs. The Trussell’s have seven children with three of them living at home (including Brennan). So far this year Brennan has spent nearly three months in the hospital. Since the time the trach was placed, the family has been asked to sacrifice even more.
Already, the Trussell home was full of medical equipment to care for Brennan’s needs. Now, in addition to the wheelchairs, shaker vest, feeding supplies and oxygen tanks, Brennan requires a night nurse and additional equipment for his trach. In the past Brennan shared a room with his parents. Now the room is not able to handle all the necessary equipment while also providing the space needed for his nursing attention. To make room, their 12-year-old son is now sleeping on the floor of his 14-year-old sister’s bedroom. The family is in critical need of an addition to their home.
Another primary concern is for safe, medically appropriate transportation. The minivan the Trussell’s own is not handicap accessible. Outfitting a vehicle with a wheelchair ramp and related equipment is very expensive. For now they have been relying on a homemade ramp to get Brennan and his wheelchair into the van. A task already hard was made even more difficult with the new medical equipment. Once inside the van it is a challenging task to secure Brennan’s wheelchair with homemade tie downs. This task is especially hard for Debbie as it requires much strength. Last week Debbie faced an incredibly scary moment as she was traveling on the freeway. This moment brought her to the realization that something needs to be done for Brennan and fast. While she was driving, Brennan and his wheelchair tipped over inside the car. It was a situation that could have killed Brennan. Fortunately after racing to the shoulder and struggling to get Brennan upright he was OK. Although this time turned out OK, what about next time?
Raising a family under ordinary circumstances is always a challenge. Financial hardships increase the strain. When you add to the mix innumerable demands on time that come from medical appointments, hospitalizations and special needs care, incredible sacrifices are required from the entire family to make it all work. During this time of year when people celebrate with friends and family, and hearts are filled with charity, members of the community are asked to consider the dire circumstances facing the Trussell family.
An account has been set up at 1st Bank of Morgan in Jeff Trussell’s name as well as an account at America First under Doris Howe. A Benefit Bazaar will be held Saturday, Dec. 8, at the Morgan Courthouse from 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. with all proceeds going to the Trussell family. For those wishing to help by donating yard sale items, baked goods, crafts or items to be auctioned off please contact Kristy McClellan at 801-829-3256. Helping hands would also be appreciated during the addition to the home, especially those skilled in sheet rock, finish work, roofing, carpet or siding.
The Trussells would like to thank all those who have helped or are willing to help in any way.