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No. 30-EXTRA

With Ron Cherubini

A Portrait of Determination:
Bailey Brenner’s Story

By Ron Cherubini

A Healthy Bailey Brenner (Submitted)

A disappointing end to his collegiate career and a subsequent bout with severe depression were almost more than former East Carolina kicker Anthony Brenner thought he could handle in life. But those struggles were nothing if not some odd form of preparation for a challenge no parent should have to undertake.

When Anthony and Jennifer Brenner brought their now-3-year-old daughter Bailey into the world in June of 2001, it was a good time. Anthony’s troubles behind and a bright future ahead, the Brenner family was the portrait of a normalcy.

But six months later, the Brenners were to begin a journey that can only be characterized as an odyssey of two parents unwilling to accept what doctors were telling them. There is a cry a baby makes to let mom and dad know she is hurting and until you have one of your own, it is nearly impossible to adequately describe the pain and terror a parent feels when their child cries that cry and you don’t know what to do to ease the hurt.

“In January, 2002, Bailey had her first seizure,” Brenner retold the start of the story. “It lasted 15 minutes and we rushed her to the hospital. All the tests that they performed were inconclusive, but they found an abnormal EEG in the frontal part of her brain.”

Those 15 minutes of seizure were the first signs of something going on with their first born. What it was, however, was a mystery and no doctors were giving the Brenners much to go on.

“No one knew how to control (the seizures),” he said. “They put her on very heavy anti-seizure medications and those didn’t help at all. In fact, they just made her lethargic. She was laying around all the time, not moving. A few weeks later she had another seizure and then another and it became almost a daily occurrence.”

It got worse, fast.

“Bailey lost her vision soon after,” Brenner said. “And, we thought that she lost her hearing for some time. This went on for over a year.”

While their local doctors were telling them that there was no diagnosis and that there was nothing that could be done, the Brenners simply were not ready to hear it.

In fact, they were not going to hear it.

And the two set out around the country in search of answers.

“We went to Johns Hopkins and then to Miami Children’s Hospital,” he said. “They put her on the Chitogenic Diet (high calcium, low vitamin D and phosphorus and no carbohydrates) in August of 2002 and her seizures went down thereafter, first to 40 a month, then to 15, and then to seven by September. She became very skinny since there are no carbohydrates on the diet… she just really did not look like a healthy baby.”

Though the seizure reduction was welcome news, the Brenners knew Bailey was not really getting better.

“We were referred to a nutritional specialist in Pennsylvania and his diagnosis was that the December prior to her seizure in 2001, that she had an adverse reaction to her DDP and Prevnar vaccine,” Brenner explained. “And this was the reason for seizures that led to her losses (of sight/hearing). He put us in touch with a lady in Orlando (FL) who was a NEAT practioner (muscle testing for allergies). She figured out that Bailey was allergic to everything in our home… cleaning product, colognes, foods, everything. The moment we removed those things, she got better. She has not had a seizure for two years.”

And the news rapidly got better for Bailey.

“The ophthalmologist said her vision is fine,” Brenner reported. “And so is her hearing. Her blindness was neurologically, so now her vision and hearing has come back. She still gazes and looks out of the sides of her eyes – I think because her peripheral vision came back first and now she has a habit of gazing out of the sides first.

“It has been a blessing really. There were times when we thought we would have a deaf and blind child.”

The amazing thing was that when Anthony and Jennifer decided that the prognosis of “nothing could be done” for their child was not acceptable, finances – or lack there of – never even crossed their minds.

“Financially, it was extremely difficult, but no matter how much money and research that we had to do, nothing was going to keep us from getting an answer,” Brenner recalled. “A lot of parents play the hand they were dealt and deal with it, but as every parent does, they have huge hopes and dreams for their child. We weren’t going to let this get in the way of her having a great life. The amount of research and trips were remarkable. Not only did we keep our relationship, but also we got stronger. The way we match up, it was quite remarkable that there were two people that never was going to be a question about research. We never thought twice about the money or anything else… it was our duty.”

When Brenner needed it most, he showed the dogged determination and the strength of his spirit that eluded him back in the days at ECU. This time, there was much more than a football career on the line and he sensed it and attacked it – he and his wife, Jennifer, together. And at times, it was tough and sometimes, words of comfort from family and friends simply served only to hurt, but solidified their resolve to find answers.

Jennifer & Anthony Brenner (Submitted)


Avery, the baby sister of Bailey
Brenner (Submitted)

“There were a lot of people saying that this was God’s will,” Brenner recalled. “My wife and I were hearing that ‘God only gives you what you can handle’ and that ‘Bailey was given to you because you were the right people for it.’

“Those comments never made us feel better. It really bothered us. I would rather have someone say, ‘I am really sorry. If I can help, please ask.’ I felt like there was a lot of patronization… or something like it. No one knows what is best for a person emotionally unless they spend some time in their shoes. We were not ready to hear the answer that there is nothing we can do. We couldn’t and wouldn’t accept that."

"I have to say," Brenner noted, "there is no way that my daughter could have gotten the treatment and care and opportunity to see the types of doctors we did without the amazing support that we got from our family, but even more, from people we did not even know.”

It started back in Florida with the girls soccer team that Brenner had coached.

“The parents of girls I coached raised tons of money and then one gentleman – a doctor – got us in to see one of the top neurologists in the world at Johns Hopkins, where it usually takes nine months to see him. It took us 30 days. It speaks volumes to the type of people who care and to the character that we are, if people didn’t respect us, it would be limited, I think. We often forget how kind people have been in helping us, for no apparent reason.”

From there, Bailey’s cause took on a life of its own. Brenner’s celebrity of sorts with the Arena Football League drew press invitations to tell his story, and the Colorado Crush, his team, set up a fund drive for her health. Money poured in and more importantly, people heard the story. The more than $200,000 in medical debts for the life of their child no longer was insurmountable. ESPN ran stories and Brenner made a guest appearance on the station’s popular morning show, “Cold Pizza.” Radio interviews, local television, you name it, were regular occurrences for the Brenners.

Brenner and his wife even got a surprise phone call from actor John Travolta and his wife, actress Kelly Preston, seeking to learn more about Bailey’s experience as the star couple tried to learn if what the Brenners experienced might help them in their own quest for knowledge in treating their own child who was having similar difficulties.

Though Brenner admits to tiring of all of the interviews, he understands the value even though Bailey is now doing just fine.

“All these interviews, really, got somewhat to a point where they were getting to be very old, quite frankly,” he said. “But, it is more than just telling Bailey’s story… it is about educating parents who might not understand the problem or inspiring others who are ready to give up.”

It’s been two years now since Bailey’s journey began and she now has a little sister, Avery, who arrived in February of 2004. Avery is healthy and progressing quite well – and normally.

Bailey has been seizure free for two years and counting now. She has started feeding herself in her high chair using her hands. She went from barely being able to sit up from a prone position at two years, two months old to crawling, then walking with a walker to walking unassisted now.

“It has been amazing,” Brenner said. “She started everything so late, but she is learning so fast. Our only concern is speech at this point. She is not talking and saying words, but she is exploring her world. So much of her life she was a vegetable so this has been an exciting period for us. Bailey has made about a year’s worth of developmental milestones in just a few months. She has been so strong.”

Like her daddy and mommy.

NOTE: If you would like to contribute to the fund, make checks payable to Bailey Brenner and send to:

Guaranty National Bank and Trust
Attn: Miracle Ford
1331 17th St.
Denver, CO 80202

Send an e-mail message to Ron Cherubini.

Click here to dig into Ron Cherubini's Bonesville archives.


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