At 7, she’s flourishing a year after taking 1st steps
GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) — Brayden Dame needed a break.
Nine surgeries in a five-year span take a toll on a body, particularly one occupied by a smiling little girl whom fate has dealt some unfair cards.
So Dawn Dame, Brayden’s grandmother, decided that enough was enough — at least for now.
“She’s been through so many surgeries, we thought it would be nice to do nothing for a while,” Dawn said. “She had never had a year when she hadn’t had anything done.”
And so it has been for the past year. Brayden was born with arthrogryposis multiplex congenita (AMC), a rare condition characterized by stiff joints and abnormally developed muscles. She is unable to use her arms, hands or fingers, and her bones continue to grow while her muscles don’t.
Following a series of corrective surgeries and procedures that helped straighten her legs, Brayden took her first steps on her own late last year around Thanksgiving and hasn’t stopped since. She still attends regular therapy sessions at the Shriners Hospitals for Children-Greenville, and the efforts have served her well.
The past year has been one of remarkable progression for Brayden, from returning to school at Westminster Elementary to riding horses to dancing with her orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Harold von Bosse of Shriners Hospitals for Children-Philadelphia, at an AMC Convention in Ohio.
She asked; he obliged.
Her power chair, which served as her primary mode of transportation for the first six-plus years of her life, has been rendered little more than an occasional security blanket.
“She hardly ever uses her chair,” Dawn said. “She wants to walk everywhere. We take the time to let her do that because it’s all new for her. She’s never been able to do this before.”
Brayden has flourished in every way imaginable.
Her grades have soared, she’s reading at above grade level and her second-grade classmates all want to sit next to her — in class, at lunch, on field trips.
In June, she joined Miss Clemson, Sydney Sill, on stage at the Miss South Carolina pageant.
At the store, Brayden scans and bags their purchases with her mouth.
She prefers dinosaurs to princesses.
She’s also discovered painting and loves to paint “Hope Globes,” which are inspirational globes presented to patients and others in need of emotional uplifting.
“I think painting is going to be her thing,” Dawn said.
Brayden, who eschews desserts and snacks for vegetables and milk and water, has grown taller and is adding weight to her slight frame — several inches and eight pounds, respectively, since January.
Brayden’s primary concern now is adding a few more pounds in order to reach the 40-pound minimum weight required to legally soar in a wind tunnel. Her target date is Feb. 1 — her eighth birthday — which would help her realize her next dream, which entails parachuting from an airplane.
“She’s embracing life right now,” Dawn said. “And learning to be independent. She can sit in the middle of a bunch of strangers and paint and talk. When we were at the AMC Convention in Cleveland, she met a bunch of kids and drew some of them out of their shells. She has just blossomed so much.”
Now all Brayden wants is an old-fashioned Christmas.
“She says she doesn’t want anything for Christmas because the most important things about Christmas are Jesus and family,” Dawn said. “So I’ve rented a house in the mountains and we’re going to cut down a little old tree like Charlie Brown’s and have only handmade ornaments and have a whole week of family time.”
Young Brayden, who’s growing up quickly, will love it.
“It has been great seeing her grow,” Dawn said. “But I really think she has an old soul in there somewhere.”
Information from: The Greenville News, http://www.greenvillenews.com