Thanks to Warriors in the Field, this muscular dystrophy patient can continue doing what he loves and spend quality time with his father.
Like so many young boys out there, 13-year-old Braden Allen loved nothing more than to climb the family hunting blind and spend the day outdoors with his father. Unfortunately, after a diagnosis of muscular dystrophy, that hobby and the wonderful bonding time had to be set aside.
Braden, who now uses a wheelchair for mobility, had no way to getting up to the family’s hunting blind. That meant, that father-son hunting trips had to be added to the list of things that Braden could no longer do because of his disease. Instead, he was forced to watch the action from the family’s back porch. Sadly, stories like that one are all too familiar for families who watch a child fight a daily battle against muscular dystrophy.
Muscular dystrophy is a group of genetic diseases that mainly affects the muscles, causing weakness, rigidity and even at times, complete paralysis. There are a number of different kinds of MD and it can strike at any age. In the United States the number of people with the disease varies because all the different kinds of MD affect people in many different ways; some people could have a case of MD that is so mild that they don’t even know they have it. The most common forms of MD and likely the kind that Braden has, is called Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) that, along with its sister Becker MD, typically affect male children. In the U.S. 1 in every 5600 have it.
Braden, like so many other boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy has lost the ability to walk. As he grows older with the disease, Braden will require round the clock care to perform even the basic of daily tasks. For now, though Braden has the support of his family, including his loving father, who also happens to be a veteran.
A generous donation of goods, labor and time
Because of Braden’s father’s long career in the military, he was the lucky recipient of a generous donation of Warriors in the Field. Founded by Dave Whittaker, the small charity focuses on supporting veterans and their families in a number of different ways. From offering resources and support to those who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to installing wheelchair ramps for veterans and, in other cases, helping a veteran’s family member.
When a member of Braden’s family’s church, Valley Independent Church reached out to Whittaker and told him about Braden and his love of hunting. The church had originally reached out to Warriors in the Field because they wanted to repair the stand. Instead, Whitaker and a number of other volunteers decided to do one better and build him a brand new blind.
After reaching out to a local Lowe’s, Whitaker had donated supplies and an army of volunteers, some who knew the family and some who didn’t, ready to build the blind. Once the work was completed, the family was surprised and humbled by the kind gift. The specialized designed hunting blind is entirely wheelchair accessible, meaning that Braden will be able to go out hunting with his dad again.
The generosity didn’t end after the blind was presented to the family in a surprise ceremony at the local fire hall. The family thought they were attending an award ceremony for a family friend, when in fact, they were presented with the new blind. After the presentation, a youth group from Valley Independent Church followed Braden and his family home to set-up the new blind on the family’s property.
The effects of MD
Muscular Dystrophy is actually more than just a disease of the muscles. It’s in fact, a group of muscle disease that over time causes the skeletal muscles to breakdown. Because the many variations of the disease, what muscles are affected is also just as varied. As does the severity of the disease, the speed it progresses and when symptoms initially appear.
Regardless of what form of MD someone has, there are a few things that remain pretty constant from disease to disease. Most patients will either lose the ability walk entirely or be overcome by muscle weakness and require assistance from a cane or walker when walking. Other forms of MD affect more than just the muscles. It can also have a very big and not so good impact on a patient's heart health, and even cause the development of lung disease.
While scientists still don’t know the exact cause of the disease, they do know that MD is a genetic disorder and that there are roughly 30 different types of MD. At the moment, there is no cure for MD, but that doesn’t mean that doctors and scientists are frantically researching in the hopes to one day find a cure. At the moment, patients like Braden who get a positive diagnosis of the disease face a lifetime of physical therapy, steroid drugs and even corrective surgery.
Often times, the different treatment options help provide a bit of relief for some of the more intense symptoms like muscle cramping and rigidity, but they can be very expensive. Having someone with MD in the family can take a financial toll, as paying for drugs, therapies and the travel that is often required to visit specialist or medical teams can add-up. That’s what makes the specialized blind much more special.
Families often can’t afford to ‘treat’ themselves when the reality of living with MD and the expenses associated with it is always in their face. So, building a wheelchair accessible hunting blind was likely just not in the cards for Braden’s family. That’s what makes this gift, however humble it may seem, that much more special.
Helping families who are living with MD
Like many other 13 year old boys, there are plenty of things that Braden wants to be able to do. Unfortunately, being in a wheelchair and living with a chronic disease like MD means that there are lots of things that Braden will never actually be able to do. Or worse, things that he will need to give up, like hunting, something he truly loved doing with his Dad.
For more information about Warrior’s in the Field, and to learn more about how to support veterans and their families, check out their website www.warriorsinthefield.org.