By Stefanie Donahue
While 11-year-old Brayden Large anxiously awaits brain surgery in April, folks from around the community are offering him and his family a helping hand. In just 24 hours, dozens stepped forward last week and donated more than $2,000 to help cover expenses.
Family friend Melissa McCarty launched a fundraising campaign on a website called YouCaring in early March under the header “Brayden’s Brain Battle.” At press time, 43 people had donated a total of $3,000 toward the $10,000 goal and 380 people had shared the campaign on Facebook since the campaign was launched.
“We’re ready to have this done,” said Brayden’s mother, Jessica Large. “We appreciate everybody who’s helped.”
For the last two years, Brayden has battled powerful headaches and has struggled with concentration, coordination and vision, Jessica said. At first, she and her husband Jeff connected the symptoms to a concussion he received playing hockey in April. However, the symptoms worsened after he got sick last year.
Soon after, she took Brayden in to his family doctor in Lynden who called for an MRI. In December, he was diagnosed with a pineal cystic tumor, located at the center of his brain.
Cystic tumors are often benign and are sometimes found in parts of the brain that do not impact vital functions. With that in mind, the doctor recommended waiting six months before going in for another scan to detect potential growth. But that wasn’t enough, Jessica said.
“He had something in his brain that didn’t belong,” she said. “I knew in my gut it wasn’t OK.”
After receiving the news, Jessica embarked on an investigation of her own and found that pineal cysts are common and often undetected. According to a report from the American Brain Tumor Association, pineal cysts are found in 1 to 4 percent of people undergoing an MRI for other reasons.
Jessica’s research led her to multiple Facebook groups dedicated to the topic of brain cysts and pediatric care. There, she met several people with similar experiences to Brayden and eventually was given the recommendation to pursue surgery with Houston, Texas-based neurosurgeon Dr. Dong H. Kim.
Unsure if Dr. Kim would take Brayden on as a patient, they flew to Houston to meet with him in February. Without hesitation he agreed to perform the surgery, Jessica said. Brayden will be Dr. Kim’s youngest patient to date to undergo the procedure.
Ultimately, Jessica, Jeff and their two girls Meghan, age 10, and Ella, 7, just want things back to normal for Brayden, she said. While the surgery is expected to take him out of school for six months up to a year, he’s been struggling to attend as it is. He’s also been forced to suspend extracurricular activities like hockey, she explained.
“We’re lucky if he goes to school two days out of the week,” she said. “It’s been really rough.”
Jeff works as a warehouse supervisor at Phillips 66 and Jessica works from home as a regional director of online retailer Thirty-One Gifts. The flexible hours allow her to stay at home with Brayden.
Moving forward, Brayden anticipates the day when he can put the surgery behind him.
“It sucks,” he said. “I’m gonna get this sucker out.”
For those interested in donating, the online YouCaring page is accepting donations at youcaring.com/braydenlarge-770858.
The Large family is also accepting donations at Whatcom Educational Credit Union (WECU). Checks can be written to Jessica Large with the notation “for Brayden’s
Lizzie’s Cafe, located at 1700 Peace Portal Drive, will also donate half of all proceeds to the family for all fish dishes sold on Saturday, April 8 between 11 a.m. and 9 p.m.
“I just felt like I really wanted to help them,” said owner Liz Stacy. “It’s just a really great family.”