January 28,1996 and Passed Away August 2, 2006
January 28th 1996, this day lives with me everyday. This is the day that my healthy little boy; Brandon Robert Pierce contracted Bacterial Meningitis.
On January 27th, Brandon had a slight fever, nothing unusual for him. We played on the tennis courts in the apartment complex where we lived. We lay on the ground after playing for a little while and we looked up at the sky and talked. At the time I was thinking how much I loved him and how we were just laying there, bonding as father and son.
That night Brandon ate pizza and drank chocolate milk, his favorite. As the night wore on Brandon was his usual self, running, playing and not wanting to go to sleep. Finally at 2am I put him in bed with my wife and me and placed my arm over his back to keep him down and get him to sleep. Little did I know what was going to happen within the next several hours with his body?
At around 7am I awoke to Brandon in between my wife and me, he kept looking at us as if he was in trouble. He vomited a brownish colored liquid and I got up to get a towel to clean him. As I was coming back into the room, his mom stated, “Oh my God, Gary, look at this”. As I entered the room Brandon’s head fell back and his eyes rolled back. I had been trained as a Firefighter/EMT in the U.S. Air Force and I quickly performed an assessment of his condition and immediately called 911. I reminded myself to speak calmly, clearly and provide as much information as possible to the operator. I hung up and quickly looked over Brandon again. He was breathing and he had a pulse but was not responding to stimuli. I ran downstairs and waited for the ambulance to arrive as his mom held him.
We arrived at Bay Medical Center here in Panama City, Florida and we were told to wait until they could stabilize Brandon before we could see him. The staff took us to a secluded room, not the usual waiting room in the ER and I knew instantly it wasn’t going to be good. The doctors walked in and advised that Brandon had a very contagious bacterial infection and that he was going to be transported to Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital in Pensacola, Florida. We were able to go in and see him there in the ER but we had to have on gowns and masks to protect us from this deadly infection. Brandon had tubes everywhere in his little body as they were trying to get him stabilized and ready for the flight to Sacred Heart. I spoke to him and kept telling him “Please open your eyes big man, I want to see those beautiful blue eyes.”
We were unable to fly in the helicopter for the flight to Pensacola, we would have to drive. The trip would take almost 3 hours, I thought to myself during the drive and wondered “Did Brandon make it”, “Is Brandon ok?” We arrived at Sacred Heart and rushed into the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit where he was being stabilized still from the flight. After a short wait we were greeted by the Chief of the Pediatric Intensive Care; Dr. Rex Northrup. He explained what was going on with Brandon and what actions were being taken with him. I understood very little and asked “Ok, but when can we take Brandon home?” The doctor looked at me and stated that Brandon had a 90% chance of passing away within the next 24-36 hours. I was taken aback; I couldn’t believe what I had just heard. My little boy and I had just played the previous day together; he was healthy, what was happening? I left my wife’s side and went into the bathroom in the waiting room and began to cry, anger filled my veins and I had my hands on the side of the sink and I pleaded with god, “Please God, don’t take my little boy away from me! I don’t care if he can’t walk, talk or do anything, as long as he can tell that I love him then I’ll be fine, but don’t you dare take my little boy from me!”
Brandon was hospitalized for almost 3 months, in that time he had bilateral amputation of both feet below the ankle due to infection, suffered damage to the brain which took away his ability to speak and caused cortical blindness, he stopped breathing and his heart stopped. But yet he pulled through. The doctors were amazed at his strength given the various ailments he had suffered. Brandon pushed out 3 teeth 2 weeks after being in the PICU, the on call dentist stated that it took 2500 lbs per square inch to push out 1 tooth, yet Brandon had managed to push out 3! When we left; Dr. Northrup stated that Brandon was one heck of a strong little boy.
10 years went by, I was able to watch Brandon grow up and see how his body changed over the course of the years. His legs would not lay straight, they would lie in the shape of a diamond, he had scoliosis, for these ailments he underwent surgeries to release the tendons in his leg and correct the curvature of his spine which at one point was at 87%. These surgeries almost took his life, yet somehow Brandon always managed to pull through.
On Wednesday, August 2, 2006 he was hospitalized for pneumonia and placed on a respirator. The following day we met with Dr. Northrup and he advised that we had options of a tracheotomy or removing the tube and seeing what would happen. His mother and I had previously talked about these options and we stated that we would not proceed with a tracheotomy. Dr. Northrup stated that once the tube was removed, Brandon would probably pass away within 20-30 minutes time. On Saturday, August 5th the tube was removed at 3:15pm. I began to watch the clock and tried to imagine when his last breath would be. I held Brandon and spoke to him, telling him “You’re going to do this Brandon, you’re going to breathe, there you go big man, and you can do it! You’re going to breathe and come home tomorrow, next weekend your going to come and visit me!” I kept telling him how strong he was and repeated his favorite sayings “Brandon’s my buddy”, “be my tough little man” and repeatedly told him how much I loved him. An hour went by, 2 hours went by, family and friends had gathered in the PICU room where he was to see him and be with him. At 5:57 I re-adjusted him on my shoulder and saw that he was about to pass away, I told his mom that he was about to go, she told him that she loved him; I told him I loved him and then he stopped breathing. The doctor came over and listened for a heartbeat, he turned to the nurse and stated time of death; 5:58pm.
Brandon had once again fooled the doctors and lived for almost 3 hours without the respirator aiding his breathing. Afterwards as I was the last one out of the room I turned to look at him. I had covered him just as he liked, fully up to his face. That would always bring a big smile to his face, it was as if he was thinking “I did it, I made it through another day” his eyes were slightly open, just like Brandon. We used to always say that Brandon couldn’t just fall asleep; he had to keep 1 eye open to make sure he didn’t miss anything. I thought to myself that he looked just like he was sleeping. I still can’t believe that he’s gone. He lives on though forever in the hearts of family and friends.
I sometimes think maybe it would have been better if Brandon would have just passed on initially during the onset of meningitis. But then again I thank god for allowing me my wish, he allowed me to have Brandon for 10 more years, although he couldn’t walk or talk, he still communicated to me with that big smile and how his face would light up when he heard my voice. Brandon, I love you always!