5-year- old Kaeden Addison is so full of love and energy, one would never know all of the struggles he has endured as an infant and young child. His mom, Carol Brockington, was working in Aiken as a surgical technician in 2010 when she became pregnant with her second son. Concerns for Carol’s health during the pregnancy forced her to stop working and focus on staying well. During her second trimester, Carol’s doctor found fluid on Kaeden’s brain. Blood tests confirmed that Carol had contracted toxoplasmosis, an infection that is caused by a parasite but rarely shows symptoms. The infection had been passed to Kaeden during the pregnancy, with major implications for Kaeden’s brain development.
When Kaeden was born in November 2010, he was diagnosed with hydrocephalus, a condition in which spinal fluid accumulates on the brain. He went into surgery for VP shunt placement at just 3 days old; this was the first of more than 15 operations that Kaeden would have on his brain. In addition, Kaeden’s eyes did not develop completely; he consequently had to have one eye removed when he was 3 months old. Due to complications with that surgery, Kaeden has had 7 surgeries on his eye, with another scheduled for January 2016. Kaeden also deals with hip dysplasia, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, myoclonic jerks, cluster seizures, and paralysis on his left side. Although he is in a wheelchair and limited in his ability to communicate, Carol says that Kaeden is expressive in his own way and “lets me know how much he loves me.”
Not surprisingly, appointments with specialists are a daily occurrence for Kaeden. Carol had to quit her job and withdraw from her nursing program in order to take Kaeden to his frequent appointments in Lexington, Greenville, Columbia, Charleston, and even out-of-state in Georgia and North Carolina. Carol and Kaeden have come to stay at the Ronald McDonald House in Greenville so that they can be in town while Kaeden meets with his doctors at Shriners and at Greenville Memorial Hospital. Having a comfortable place to stay allows Kaeden the time he needs to rest between appointments, and being close to the hospitals means that Carol does not have to make the long commute from Aiken every day.
The support that Carol receives from the House has made a huge difference for her and Kaeden. She was able to be comfortable and stay worry free, despite all of the other factors constantly on her mind. Keeping her sons happy and healthy is Carol’s top priority, and the Ronald McDonald House has provided her with comfort and security during stressful times. Carol says that RMH, which stand for the Ronald McDonald House, stands for “home away from home to Rest your Mind and Heart” in her eyes.
This lifestyle has also been a challenge for Kaeden’s older brother, Kendahl. With the support of her family, Carol is able to provide Kaeden with the care he needs and Kendahl with support and stability. Carol hopes to one day be able to resume her nursing program and eventually begin working again. Although Kaeden’s health challenges have changed Carol’s life in many ways, she would not trade it for anything: “I can’t imagine life without my sunshine.”