Brandt family copes with tragedy
Monday, April 14, 2014 1:48 PM
Most of us travel along in our lives, enjoying the good days and weathering the not-so-great ones, subconsciously expecting them to more-or-less stick within certain limits.
But life can just as easily take a crazy, terrible twist, as any person diagnosed with a terminal or even serious illness can attest.
Merrill resident Tim Brandt is one such person.
Brandt was a large, powerful maintenance worker for the 3M company, and a disease and an infection laid him low at the same time he and his wife, Brandi, were expecting Brandy’s fourth daughter and Tim’s third.
Tim has been paralyzed and blinded by a combination of the Guillain Barré Syndrome and Acute Disseminated Encephalonyelitis infection, and now he has a long, difficult road back to partial recovery. He may need divine intervention to recover his sight.
At the beginning, Tim’s mere survival could be termed a miracle.
“The first time he was in the trauma center in Marshfield, they only gave him a 20% chance of pulling through,” Brandy said. “He pulled through twice. He’s a strong man. He’s a fighter.”
The whole affair caught the family completely by surprise, Tim coming down with a seemingly innocuous ear infection.
“A week later, it’s taking me a half-hour to pick him up off the floor and get him in my car,” Brandy said. “I was four months pregnant at the time.”
A rare relapse of Guillain Barré Syndrome, the body’s immune system attacking itself, had hit Tim.
“It’s like cancer,” Brandy said. “You just get it. He had Guillain Barré as a nine-year old. His whole life he couldn’t get a flu shot. We don’t know how he got the ADEM.”
It instantly turned all their lives on their heads.
“If I didn’t have my faith, I’d be a lost soul,” Brandy said. “We cried for four months straight, every day. Now in the sixth month, I’m just trying to have faith that God is going to bring my husband home. Really, the only thing we can do is have faith, and pray for a miracle, a big one.
“Things have really changed with us, going to church in the last year. We really turned our lives around and thank God we did.”
For now, the family is fighting for every bit of recovery.
“If he gives up, he’s giving up on his kids,” Brandy said. “He has to much to live for to give up.
“He has his ups and downs. He gets pretty depressed at times because he’s so used to taking care of us. He was the only one working; I was a stay-at-home mom. After I get the kids ready for school, I go by Tim. He needs that moral support every day, so he doesn’t get depressed.”
Compounding the difficulty of his recovery is the fact the medical community can give few answers due to the improbability of Tim’s condition.
“Since he’s been sick, you ask a question, ‘What’s the expectancy of this?’ and every time it’s ‘I don’t know,’ ” Brandy said. “It’s so rare they’re watching him to see how he heals. It’s about an inch a month for healing, so it could be 3-5 years for him to feel his feet. If he ever gets that back, depending on how much nerve damage there is. For the last six months he’s only had feeling from the middle of his chest on up.
“The ADEM is what attacked his brain and spine, and severed both of his optic nerves, so he won’t see again. It’s breaking his heart he’ll never see his baby or his girls get married or watch them grow. He’s only 35 years old, and got his whole life ahead of him. He just wants to play with his kids, throw them a ball or push them on a swing.”
For a sighted person to be laid low with blindness, a loving touch from his wife and daughters would seem to be the best medicine. Unfortunately for Tim, the nerve repair blocked much of that joy in the early stages of his recovery.
“With the nerve damage, it’s a very excruciating healing process, more painful than shingles,” Brandy said. “We couldn’t touch his head or kiss his cheek for almost two months, because it was so painful. He’s always in pain, but it’s a good thing because it means he’s healing.
“Once the nerve is completely healed, the pain subsides. His face no longer hurts. Now, it’s his hands. It’s kind of moving down his body.”
While Tim concentrates on healing, life somehow goes on for the rest of the family.
“At first I didn’t understand why God allowed me to be pregnant while this was happening to Tim,” Brandy said. “But then I realized I needed to have this miracle to have something to be happy about.
“The other day, Bailie, our four-year-old, asked, ‘Do you know how to build me a hopscotch? Because Daddy’s not here to build my hopscotch.’
“It’s sweet to hear the 11- and four-year-old saying their prayers for their dad, but it breaks your heart.”
The kids do see their dad twice a week at Wausau’s Mount View facility.
“It’s really hard to take them by myself between the baby, and a two-year-old and a four-year-old running around,” Brandy said. “But he loves it when they come see him. He can’t see them grow, but he can hear them and just the maturity of how they talk.
“He has very little feeling in his hands. It’s just starting to come back. So we measure Sophia’s feet and hands on his face, so he can feel how she grows.”
An account has been opened for the Brandt family at Lincoln Community Bank. Donations are welcome. The family is also holding a benefit at the Merrill Town Hall on April 26.
Who: Tim Brandt, his wife Brandy, and daughters Kortney (11), Bailie (4), Addison (2) and Sophia (one month).
What: A fundraiser benefit with beverages, lunch, raffles, silent auctions and music. Admission is $12.00 for adults ($10 advance), $6.00 ($5.00) for kids 6-12, free for kids 5-and-under.
When: From 1:00-5:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 26, 2014.
Where: The new Merrill Town Hall, north on old Hwy. 51 (Hwy. K) on W4594 Progressive Ave., Merrill.
Why: To pay for medical bills and to make the Brandt home wheel-chair accessible.