While every high school graduation is a cause for celebration, for the family of Braden West it’s an especially momentous occasion. That’s because Braden, of Kentucky, was never expected to live past infancy. When his mother, Cheri West, was pregnant with him, doctors predicted that Braden would be born with a number of life-threatening complications, including a hole in his skull and no brain. “The doctor said that he first of all would not live and if he does live, he’ll be severely handicapped, blind and deaf. He’s a straight-A student at Apollo High School,” Cheri told WHAS11.
Defying the odds, Braden was born with Pfeiffer Syndrome, which affected the formation of his skull. After becoming very ill, he was put into hospice care and was not expected to live. Pediatric nurse Michele Linn was assigned to care for him in his final days in hospice. Recently, Linn posted an emotional Facebook tribute to Braden, describing those early days and crediting God for Braden’s miraculous survival. “As I watched him struggle all throughout the night, I remember pleading with God to please just take him or make him better, it was just too hard for him, his family, and all those involved in his care. I’m happy to say God answered that prayer and the prayers of so many others in a big way! His condition steadily improved and a few months later he was discharged from Hospice!”
Linn kept close to the family through the years and was honored when Cheri asked her to take Braden’s senior photos. “As I drove there [to take his pictures], I just kept thinking 17 years ago I cried because I thought his time on earth was ending, and now I’m crying because he is graduating high school and his life is just beginning!” she wrote.
In addition to being a straight-A high school student, Braden also loves planes, is a volunteer airman with the Civil Air Patrol, and is active in his church. His life is proof that a life-threatening diagnosis is not a death sentence, and that people continue to defy the odds every day. In her Facebook post, Michelle wrote, “He continued to shock the medical community soaring past milestones they said he’d never meet. Second birthday, third birthday, fourth and so on, walking, talking, going to school, etc. Braden is now 18 and will graduate from Apollo High School this year!”
In a world where the value of life is diminished and parents are often pressured to abort preborn children who are expected to have disabilities, Braden’s life is a true testament of hope. He said it best when he told WHAS11, “I’m very happy with who I am, ain’t going to change, ain’t no one is going to make me change. I’m happy with who I am today.”
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