“We can all dream.” Tishara Cushenberry overheard one of her son’s former doctors say this after she told him that her then 2-year-old son was showing signs of beginning to walk.
While children are typically walking by age 2, for her son Bryan Perrier, this seemed almost impossible. Bryan, now 14 years old and a student at Gonzales Middle School, was diagnosed with spina bifida at birth. This is a condition that causes the spinal cord and the bones of the spine to be formed abnormally. There is also no skin over the area, so the spinal cord is actually exposed to the outside.
He had his first surgery as a newborn to cover the spinal cord with skin and protect it from further damage. He had another surgery two weeks later to place a spinal fluid shunt in his brain. In all, Bryan has had six surgeries in his young life. Many kids with spina bifida are never able to walk at all. But not Bryan. His mom was right, and by 3 years old, he was walking.
Today, Bryan leads a relatively normal life for a teenage boy aside from some limited mobility and the regular visits he has to various doctors and specialists to monitor his spina bifida.
One such specialist he has formed a very special bond with is his pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Lori McBride. Dr. McBride joined Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Health in July, bringing with her more than 20 years of experience in specialty areas such as neurotrauma, epilepsy surgery and brain tumor surgery.
With a specialist like Dr. McBride in Baton Rouge, patients like Bryan no longer have to travel far from home to receive highly specialized care. The new freestanding Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital, set to open in 2019, is helping increase this access to services by attracting more pediatric specialties and improving convenience for families throughout the region.
For Bryan, gone are the days of driving an hour back to New Orleans for an appointment with Dr. McBride. Now, he and his mother only have to drive across town.
Bryan has been a patient of Dr. McBride’s since 2008 and has spent a lot of time in her care the last decade. In those 10 years, she has had the opportunity to watch him grow up and blossom into an independent, vibrant young man.
“Bryan has had such a great attitude about everything throughout his life, and he doesn’t let the fact that he has some limited abilities get him down,” said Dr. McBride. “He sets a great example of how to live life to the fullest no matter what hand you are dealt.”
When asked what advice he would give to other young kids with spina bifida, Bryan said, “Never let anything stop you.” That’s a mantra he’s lived with his entire life and one he hopes other children with his same diagnosis can too.
Just like many other boys his age, Bryan has a passion for wrestling. He loves watching the sport on TV whenever he can. And though Bryan can’t participate in the sport himself, he continues to wrestle his own odds every day. He uses a chair to go long distances, but he is still able to walk short distances unassisted or with the help of special crutches.
For Christmas last year, Bryan received his first bike. It’s a special bike designed specifically for kids with limited mobility, one that he mastered in just a short time and loves to ride. He likes to remind his mom that the next step is driving a car. We can all dream. And for very special kids like Bryan, sometimes dreams come true.