Nicole and Brandon are thoughtful, resourceful, loving parents to their four children. They like to play board games together and watch their oldest son’s baseball games. And with four boys, you can feel the energy and playfulness as soon as you walk into their home. Building blocks and ball throwing. Laughter and lighthearted banter.
But in this lively family, what you also see is a sense of tension and concern for the kids’ safety. Like all mothers, Nicole is vigilant of her toddler’s clumsy steps and her sons’ roughhousing. But unlike all mothers, this is because two of the four children have a rare blood disorder, and two of them have a genetic malformation requiring intensive medical care.
Mounting Medical Debt Creates Stress and Fear
Each injury, bump or bruise could mean an emergency room visit. But Nicole and Brandon take on the emotional burden of these complications in hopes of giving their children life experience most children are able to enjoy.
“We see our kids as capable people, they just need a little extra love. We are determined to invest everything we have in them and their success,” says mom Nicole.
In addition to blood disorders, the middle two boys have a rare genetic diagnosis of Chiari malformation—a condition in which brain tissue extends into the spinal canal—that impacts their speech, growth, feeding and development. Their conditions have many challenging aspects that affect normal activities of daily life and create an overwhelming amount of stress and anxiety for the parents.
When we first met this family, they were struggling to access therapies, insurance and medical providers for their kids. They were paying for occupational, speech and physical therapy out of pocket and having to pick and choose what they could provide for their kids.
“Any Baby Can came into our lives when we could no longer afford private therapies that our son desperately needed. We had maxed out every credit card we had to afford therapy. Saben would not be attending a traditional education classroom without Any Baby Can. We are eternally grateful for our therapists and caseworkers,” says Nicole.
Once connected to Any Baby Can, their son was able to receive all of the therapies he needed, in their home, through our Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) program. These therapies have made a huge difference in their quality of life. But Chiari malformation is a life-long condition that may require surgeries, feeding tubes and private therapy as soon as they age out of early intervention services at three years old.
Both kids with Chiari malformation are also enrolled in Any Baby Can’s Comprehensive Advocacy and Resources for Empowerment (CARE) program. CARE provides parents of children who have special healthcare needs with home-based medical case management, emotional support, coping skills, and assistance navigating insurance, medical systems and schools. Our CARE manager has supported Nicole by coordinating and attending school advocacy meetings and providing guidance in accessing Medicaid. CARE was also able to apply respite funds to pay qualified individuals to watch the kiddos so mom and dad could get some much-needed relief.
Hope for a Better Life
Nicole and Brandon came from families without a college education who struggled economically. During their marriage, they both took many deliberate, difficult steps to improve their lives. Brandon worked hard, teaching himself web development so he could increase his ability to provide for his family.
Both parents are proactive, seeking resources and advocating tirelessly in the face of numerous obstacles. They have spent hours upon hours trying to secure medical benefits and care their children need.
Despite the stress, anxiety and the burden of medical care for their children, they have never given up hope. Nicole’s greatest dream is that she could find ways to give her children, as much as possible, a “normal childhood.” Through her own difficult experiences, she learned that investing in children gives them the best possible chance at a successful future.
“All we can do is keep them safe, provide ways to learn and to the best of our ability; create opportunity to fit who they are as we discover more about them,” says dad Brandon.
Season for Caring
Despite the services they’ve been able to receive, the kids’ conditions have left the family with medical debt in excess of $25,000 with additional surgeries and procedures still pending. They don’t have financial means to hire help and friends are not comfortable watching their children with medical needs. Their only source of support, Nicole’s mother, was diagnosed with cancer last fall and has not been able to offer as much respite. In addition, Nicole lost her brother to a tragic car accident earlier this year, and four days after the funeral, her father was also diagnosed with cancer. Nicole has been processing a lot of grief, and has her own medical needs as she’s diagnosed with celiac disease.
Brandon lost his job over the summer. They lost an income and insurance, adding tension to an already challenging home life. Every dollar that they have goes toward keeping a roof over their heads and addressing each kids’ medical needs. Brandon works tirelessly to support not only his own kids but also his extended family during these difficult times.
This family has shown full dedication to providing as much intervention and therapy to their children as possible, even in the face of a mountain of challenges. Their advocacy for their children in school, with insurance companies, and in life is remarkable.
This year, their family is nominated as part of The Austin-American Statesman’s Season for Caring campaign. Through the campaign, we hope to clear the family’s medical debt, incorporate mobility and accessibility solutions into their home, provide basic home repairs and upgrades, arrange mental health, nutrition and financial counseling, and much more.
Support this hard-working family and Any Baby Can by considering a gift to Season for Caring (Select “Nicole and Brandon Overton, Any Baby Can”).
You can see the family’s wish list items at the Austin American Statesman, and includes the following: Help with past medical debt; for the home, sunshade or covering for the backyard, fence repair, back door and door frame replacement, pest control and assessment, new baseboards throughout the house, new stairwell handrails, stair and sidewalk repairs, an automatic garage door system; a sectional couch that can seat five to seven people; for Mayken, protective baseball gear, a batting cage membership and baseball camps and/or lessons; for Kafry, social activities through the YMCA; for Saben, equine therapy and noise-canceling headphones; for Greeley, Seventh Generation brand diapers and wipes; for Brandon, a gift card to a Brazilian steakhouse; for Nicole, gift cards to Sway and Ulta; for the family, nutrition counseling, veterinarian care for pet dog, mental health counseling sessions, respite care; H-E-B, Costco and Target gift cards.
To donate in-kind items, please call Any Baby Can at 512-454-3743, extension 101.