Let Bronwen Know That We Have Her Back

Please consider helping my niece, Bronwen, and her family get through the most difficult time in their lives. Bronwen is currently alone and scared at the University of Illinois Hospital in the Neurosurgical ICU following a series of strokes. This was not at all what she or her family thought they signed up for when they arrived in Chicago for her back surgery.

Prior to December 29th, Bronwen had undergone 8 surgeries for her severe scoliosis. The surgery scheduled for December 29th at the Shriners Hospital in Chicago was to place fusion rods in her back. Bronwen was nervous, but she understood that this needed to be done, and she was relieved that this should be her last surgery for her back problems.

On December 29th, I received a message from my brother stating that the surgery did not go well. One of Bronwen’s VEPTR rods broke as they were removing it, the doctors had to break a rib to get all the pieces out, and Bronwen lost feeling and mobility in one of her legs when they were placing a fusion rod. The surgery had to be aborted immediately. Bronwen was transported immediately after surgery to the University of Illinois for an MRI and X-Rays to identify the issues. Bronwen was terribly upset when she woke up back at the Shriners Hospital and found out that nothing had gone as planned.

The MRI and X-Rays showed that the issues were vascular and not nerve-based. (What a relief!) The new plan was for Bronwen to spend two weeks recovering from her initial surgery before they could complete a second surgery. She had to participate in 4-5 hours of physical rehab each day as part of her recovery. Her pain medication made her very sick, so she had little medication while going through rehab. She was in terrible pain; feeling very scared, anxious, and defeated; and was “confused.”

On January 7th, Bronwen reported a numb feeling in her left arm. Her mother then noticed that her speech was slurred – this happened several times and was very scary. The doctors sent her to the University of Illinois Hospital for an MRI, CT scan, and brain angiogram. There they found she had two different brain bleeds in the right side of her brain. She was admitted to the neurosurgical ICU. The University of Illinois Hospital has different COVID rules than the Shriners Hospital had – Bronwen’s mother is not allowed to be there with her as she had been at Shriners, even though she has tested negative for coronavirus. Bronwen continues to have “after shock episodes,” and when they happen, she cannot speak. The doctors are running many more tests and hope to have a game plan by Wednesday, January 13th. Bronwen is alone and very scared. Her mom is staying nearby at a Ronald McDonald house, but cannot go in to UIC to see her.

Bronwen’s parents had everything figured out. They saved their money for the surgery and the week-long stay in Chicago. Bronwen’s mother, a communications and event planner for a state-wide church organization, planned to stay with her and continue to work part time from her hospital room. Her father, who is a utilities worker, did not have the option of working from a hospital room, so he would remain in Wisconsin and care for their other child. Bronwen planned to be well in time to return for her last semester of college. Nothing has gone as planned. So many things have gone wrong. Everything has been out of their control.

Please help this family in any way you can. The tests and extended hospital stay are already weighing heavy on the minds of Bronwen’s parents. They are unsure of what the future holds, but they know that Bronwen will have to complete the back surgery at some point in time and that it will be much riskier than originally thought. Any help you can give is much appreciated.


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Lisa Martin 
Madison, WI
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