Bridgeport, WV

"Home is where the heart is"

Despite being diagnosed with a brain tumor, 4-year-old Heath Owen is all smiles after surgery thanks to the loving support of his family and community. (Credit: Brittany Owen)

The community of Bridgeport came together to show support for a child in need. People went above and beyond for this child. They are the nicest, kindest, most generous people that I know!

This story is about my four-year-old son Heath Owen who was three-years-old at the time. On Saturday, May 8th, Heath was not acting like himself. He had a bad headache and unlike all his previous ones, this would not go away. He fell asleep, but wouldn’t wake up. I knew something was really wrong so I phoned the on-call pediatrician who recommended that I bring him to the ER.

After we arrived to the ER, Heath started to vomit. Doctors suspected it might be dehydration or a bad virus, but performed an MRI the next morning just to be safe. That morning, Heath was back to his happy self again, so I assumed he would be okay. As I packed up all of our stuff for Heath to be discharged, six or more doctors gathered into the room. I knew something had to be wrong! Heath had a brain tumor that blocked his cerebrospinal fluid from draining. His head was full of excessive fluid and pressure. The surprised doctors were amazed that he could walk and wasn’t visually or mentally impaired.

Before Heath’s symptoms progressed, the specialists informed us that Heath would have to undergo brain surgery the next morning. My heart sank. I was in shock! I never imagined that this would be the diagnosis. The tumor sat very close to his brain stem so there was no way to do a biopsy on the tumor or remove it without causing permanent brain damage.  The best method was to continue monitoring it.

The next day, Heath had his surgery to help redirect the cerebrospinal fluid and release the burdening pressure in his brain. Thankfully, the surgery went well. Heath woke up from his surgery with a big grin on his face. As of now, this new pathway is working the way that it should be. They won’t ever be able to remove the tumor because of it’s close proximity to the brain stem. The neurosurgeon said that it’ll most likely always grow but hopefully at a slow rate. They couldn’t do any testing to discover if the tumor was malignant or benign. However, at this point, they thought it was a benign tumor. If the tumor starts to grow at a rapid rate, they said that they will either have to start chemotherapy or remove the top of the tumor that grows away from the brain stem.

Approximately six months after Heath was diagnosed with his brain tumor, a few of our friends approached us and announced that they would be throwing a benefit for him. They totally surprised us with this news. The benefit would be held at Brickside Bar and Grille in Bridgeport. Many people helped out by providing food, gifts, desserts, raffles, or entertainment. I would like to thank the entire town of Bridgeport!

Bridgeport is a small town located in Harrison County in West Virginia. Yet we had several hundred people attend the event. The people of this town really went out of their way for my baby boy! We couldn’t ask for better friends, family, and community. Our family could not have gotten through all this without their support and prayers. We have people asking us about Heath everyday! We weren’t sure how to thank everyone who has helped out. I would love for the people of Bridgeport, WV to be recognized for their generosity, hospitality, and kindness!

Heath is an amazing little boy. He loves to laugh, giggle, tell jokes, and dance. His laughter has become my favorite sound. He can brighten up any day with his incredible smile. He loves wrestling, NASCAR, Monster Trucks, Superheroes, Pittsburgh Penguins, cars, and kittens. Most of all, he seems to enjoy spending time with family and friends.

As Heath’s mother, the nights are the worst for me, as I lay awake with all these different thoughts running through my mind. As I’m cuddling with my baby boy, I come to realize how much I admire him. He is such a strong, sweet, amazing little boy! I wish that I could be as strong as he is! I don’t know how he does it, but he always has a smile on his face. He can always cheer me up when I’m having the worst of days! He is my strength, my motivation, my life. I love him more than words could ever express. We have no clue why our little boy developed this awful thing, but we are trying to stay positive about everything. Our days will continue to be filled with smiles, laughter, and fun! My son’s MRI in March 2017 showed that the tumor has not grown, and the fluid is draining the way it should.