Tuesday, February 9, 2016
HAYESVILLE NC - GARRETT BROWN IS A LEAPLING AND WILL TURN 16 ON FEBRUARY 29 - AS A TODDLER HE WAS ATTACKED BY A DOG THAT LEFT HIM BLIND - HIS MOM SET UP A FACEBOOK PAGE "CARDS FOR GARRETT" SO EVERYONE COULD SEND HIM A BIRTHDAY CARD
By Lorrie Ross, Staff Writer
In most ways, Clay County’s Garrett Brown is like any normal teenage boy. He is an avid country music fan, he adores Taylor Swift, he uses a tablet a lot and he enjoys playing in the snow.
In a few ways, the young man is different than others. Garrett Brown’s birthday falls on Feb. 29 so he is considered a leapling. And Garrett Brown is blind. Because of his blindness, he does not experience some of the things many people take for granted. For example, he does not get birthday cards or any mail at all.
But that will change in a few weeks. The teen with four brothers and two sisters will celebrate his 16th birthday with the help of hundreds of people, many from around the world.
Thanks to a Facebook appeal begun by his mother, Jessie Brown, Garrett Brown will receive lots of birthday cards. At press time, the count was approaching 1,000 cards from around the United States, as well as other countries like Poland, Malaysia, Germany, Australia and Denmark.
It started when the young man read an article about a little girl’s wish for Christmas cards and he asked his mother why he never gets mail. Thus, the Cards for Garrett event began and had 49,000 friends within a matter of days.
Jessie Brown explained, “My mom used to send him mail for his birthday even though she lived a mile up the road because she knew how he loved to check the mailbox and receive mail. She passed away May 9, 2012 and that was the last time he received a birthday card in the mail. I think it would be an unforgettable and fantastic birthday for him if everyone who is willing would send him a birthday card. He does read Braille, but we will read every card send to him.”
Jessie Brown accidently deleted the original page and had to start over. Even so, Cards for Garrett has regained around 15,000 followers. The request for cards is a secret endeavor so anyone who sees the tenth grader at Hayesville High School or around the community is asked to keep it secret, but please spread the word to others. The Browns and a team of friends will make sure he hears every card.
The son of Bruce and Jessie Brown, Garrett Brown was not born blind. He was attacked by a dog on January 6, 2002 and left with severe facial scarring, no eyelids, no muscle, no tissue and no tear glands in either eye. The Brown family lived near Gainesville, Florida, at the time of the attack and the boy was flown to Shands Hospital.
“They did not know really how to handle the injury as they had never encountered an injury of this nature,” his mother shared. “It was like a burn and a de-gloving injury, but his eyeballs were left unharmed. They had to sew amniotic membranes to his eyes and close them with skin grafts taken from his legs. He was in Pediatric ICU for about 10 days and then moved to the floor for seven. He was on a feeding tube for quite awhile. “
She said presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson was his surgeon at John Hopkins Hospital in Maryland, but the boy has been to hospitals from Miami to Texas, North Carolina and Georgia. He has also had lots of therapy. “At one point, he was so drug induced he stopped breathing. He was placed on methadone therapy because he became addicted to morphine. A total of 15 surgeries — one of which caused a terrible infection. He is a Shriner patient, as well because they treated his injuries like a burn.”
His last surgery in 2006 at Emory Children’s Hospital opened his right eye. “They said it would be up to his brain to make the connections to see again and that it may not happen,” Jessica Garrett explained. “So far it has not. The left eye cannot be opened due to skin and blood vessels growing into his eye. He has to put drops in every hour and ointment and a patch over his eye at night.”
Even though he is almost 16, Garrett Brown must wait until he is fully grown to have cosmetic surgery. His mom continued, “We were given the option of a cornea transplant, but also warned that he would be on immunosupressant drugs and if the transplant did not take, he would lose his eyes and what vision he has. At this point he can see lights and shadows so decided against this surgery for now.”
On the Facebook page, Jessie Brown gives the daily card count, but she also shares aspects of her son’s everyday life. His favorite role is playing uncle to his three nephews and two nieces. He frequently has nightmares, but lives life to the fullest. His smile demonstrates that. One post shared how he will get to do work study at Computer Connections during his junior and senior years of high school. “He is super excited,” his mom said. The family hopes to get a guide dog this summer.
Jessica Brown bragged about her son. “Garrett is very smart. He is in the National Beta Club,” she said. “Sadly, the School for the Blind is almost eight hours away from us. We tried that for a year, but it was very difficult for him and us, as well.”
A good understanding of Garret Brown’s character may be obtained from reading an excerpt from his blog:
“Blindness is a major interest. Blindness, most of you may know, is mainly thought to be a disability which disables the victim from being able to see, albeit clearly or at all. However, this is not all there is to it. The way I see it, blindness is not a disability, but rather, it is an ability. We do not judge people by how they look. We judge them upon their actions and behavior. We see the world through a different perspective of things. We see the world through our fingers and ears. Unfortunately, not everyone in the world knows how well we get around it. They don’t see people that make coffee, lift heavy objects, use computers and phones. They think things like, ‘How is he able to tell what he’s reading, how is he able to do so much, despite his disability?’ And my answer is, ‘Well, I’m just like everyone else. I just have to navigate the world from a different perspective.’ I use a thing on the computer that’s known as a screen reader. I use it to read text on the computer out loud in synthesized speech, also known as TTS, or text to speech. I have used many popular screen readers, such as NVDA, Jaws, Window Eyes, and System Access. I also read a special type of writing, known as Braille. Braille is a grouping of dots, known as cells. There are about 18 or 24 cells on a common peace of special paper known as Braille paper. This is thicker than your ordinary paper, and some Braille paper is larger than other types. A Braille writer is a machine that you press keys on to type. You must manually return the carriage to the top on the Brailler to start a new line. An embosser is a very special Braille printer. It’s like your ordinary printer, except this one talks a little bit and it takes longer to print due to the fact that it has to punch each individual hole in the paper. A slate and stylus is like a pencil. It takes a lot longer to write due to the fact that you must punch all the holes yourself. Also, you must write the Braille upside down. So you see, blind people are capable of lots of things. However, not everyone in the world is aware of our benefit. But with everyone’s help, I intend to make this change. And with everyone’s help, I believe I can make blind people well known and of valuable resource to the community.” Garrett Brown said.
Jessie Brown encourages everyone to share the story so Garrett will get even more cards. “We encourage and appreciate prayers, too,” she added.
To follow Garrett’s story, visit: www.facebook.com/events/1653025668286714. If you send a friend request, you will get regular updates about him and how many cards have arrived each day.
Birthday cards may be mailed to: Garrett Brown, 61 West Vineyard Road, Hayesville, NC 28904.
Read more: Clay County Progress - Birthday wish may come true
HERE IS GARRETT'S FULL STORY AS TOLD BY HIS MOM:
Garrett was attacked by a dog January 6, 2002. He was left with severe facial scarring, no eyelids, no muscle, no tissue and no tear glands in either eye. We lived near Gainesville, FL at the time. He was flown to Shands hospital. They did not know really how to handle the injury as they had never encountered an injury of this nature.
It was like a burn and a degloving injury, but his "eyeballs" were left unharmed. They had to sew amniotic membranes to his eyes and close them with skin grafts taken from his legs. He was in Pediatric ICU for for about 10 days and then moved to the floor for 7. He underwent lots of therapy. He was on a feeding tube for quite awhile.
He has been to numerous hospitals. A total of 15 surgeries one of which caused a terrible infection. We have taken him to Miami, Johns Hopkins in Maryland where Dr. and Presidential Candidate, Ben Carson was his surgeon, Texas, Georgia and NC. He is a Shriner patient as well because they treated his injuries like a burn.
At this point he has to wait until he is fully grown to have any cosmetic surgeries done. We were given the option of a cornea transplant, but also warned that he would be on immunosupressant drugs and that if the transplant did not take that he would lose his eyes and what vision he has. At this point he can see lights and shadows so decided against this surgery for now. In 2006, his last surgery, Emory Childrens Hospital in Atlanta opened his right eye. They said it would be up to his brain to make the connections to see again and that it may not happen. So far it has not. The left eye can not be opened due to skin and blood vessels growing into his eye frown emoticon . He has to put drops in every hour and ointment and a patch over his eye at night.
Garrett is very smart! He is in the National Beta Club. He is in 10th grade at Hayesville High School. Sadly, The School for the Blind is almost 8 hours away from us. We tried that for a year, but it was very difficult on him and us as well. The teachers, staff and all involved with Garrett's education at Hayesville are amazing!
He is hoping to get a guide dog this summer which will require either my husband or I to leave with him for a month for training with the guide dog.
Garrett loves computers! He wants to create computer games for the blind when he finishes school. He has an Asus T100 tablet and hopes to get a MacBook Pro one day. He has a digital recorder which he listens to at night to help him sleep. It has seen its last days lol! He goes through tons of AAA batteries for said recorder and headphones!
He can play a lot of instruments by ear. We are hoping to get him piano lessons. He loves Country Music! And he enjoys audio books, Sponge Bob and Comedians. He loves to swim! He loves boat rides and Horseback riding. Most of all he wants a girlfriend lol! (Typical teenage boy)...
People have asked about sending concert tickets and other places. As awesome as that would be, Garrett does not handle loud noises or crowds well. We are planning a trip to Florida in March to take him to Single Vision, Inc. It is a sanctuary for wild animals. He will be able to interact with some of them which will be awesome for him!
Garrett is the youngest of 7! He has 4 brothers and 2 sisters.
Again, thank you all for sharing, sending cards and taking the time to read his story and message ♡
PLEASE READ ABOUT OTHER CHILDREN:
MYCHA LEE HERBERT: http://www.dogsbitedecatural.com/2011/04/tulsa-ok-worst-pit-bull-attack-on-child.html
FRANKIE SCARBROUGH: http://www.dogsbitedecatural.com/2011/04/miami-fl-area-3-horrific-pit-bull.html
DANIEL DECEMBRE: http://www.dogsbitedecatural.com/2011/04/orange-co-fl-2003-8-yr-old-pit-bull.html