The story of little Brenna is a story of overcoming every possible obstacle – and is also a reminder of unconditional parental love.
Some fathers and mothers give up their children – just because they look different.
This is why it is very important for us to bring inspiring stories to people’s attention, stories in which parents and children show that there is no great challenge, as long as you stay together.
It is also an important lesson for any of us who have ever judged someone based on their appearance.
Courtney and Evan Westlake happily lived their lives together with their son Connor when they found out Courtney was pregnant again.
Of course the couple was happy when they realized their family was about to expand.
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Like all parents expecting a baby, they waited in anticipation for the first ultrasound.
Every time they left the hospital, the doctors assured them that everything seemed fine with their girl.
A few months into the pregnancy, Courtney and Owen found out they were pregnant with a daughter: Connor will have a little sister!
The couple was happy and began to imagine everything a little girl would bring to the family.
“I’ll have to learn to do a ponytail to comb hair”, Owen laughed.
The big day came a few weeks before the eve of the civil year. The little girl was born – but all the plans they had, to get to know the little girl for her new home, were shattered.
Their daughter, Brenna, was born covered in white scales. She did not move, she had a very high fever and her whole body was covered with wounds.
Brenna needed urgent medical attention – otherwise she would not have survived.
Courtney and Owen were able to hold her for the first time just two weeks after she was born.
They found that Brenna had a severe inherited disease called Ichthyosis (Harlequin ichthyosis). The disease causes Brenna’s body to produce skin 10 times faster than normal.
It causes redness all over the body, and affects the eyes, mouth, nose and ears.
There is no cure for the disease and it is usually fatal.
With all the physical challenges that come with ichthyosis, the parents knew they were facing a difficult path.
Courtney sometimes encounters people on the street who point at Brenna, or make abusive remarks, or ask insensitive questions when she’s out with Brenna.
It saddens her. She can understand that children are curious about Brenna, because she has such a unique look.
But what really annoys Courtney are the reactions she hears from many parents. They keep the children away from Brenna as soon as they see her and tell their children to be quiet as they approach her.
Courtney would have preferred that parents would approach and talk to her and Brenna, instead of turning their gaze and leaving the playground.
But at the same time, Brenna is a proud and confident girl, who does not let anyone oppress her. She is confident in herself, thanks to the wonderful support she receives from her parents.
Especially from her older brother, Connor, who adores his little sister.
“Why do parents try to avoid talking to people who look different? What are they afraid of? They can just approach me and ask how old Brenna is”, Courtney said, continuing:
“When their kids ask why Brenna is so red and puffy, why they can not be honest and say, ‘We do not know, but it does not matter what we look like, we are all unique and special'”.
Despite their challenging days, Owen, Courtney, and Connor are proud of their little warrior – and for good reason.
Every evening, Father Owen showers his daughter, which should be done very gently and thoroughly.
The same man who laughed at combing his daughter’s hair now gives her gentle massages with a cloth and washes her scales.
Because of the disease Brenna also does not have much hair, but every day Dad gently combs the hair since she has.
And Brenna is like any other girl. She loves her family, playing and listening to bedtime stories with her dad and older brother.
Her parents are convinced that Brenna can do whatever she wants in life, even if life did not turn out exactly as they had planned.
Courtney regularly writes a blog about her family, Blessed by Brenna, and she has also written a book, A Different Beautiful, which was published in August 2016.
The family hope their open and moving story will help others understand and appreciate people who look different.
And Brenna is just as beautiful as she is, right?
Please share Brenna’s inspiring story to help her and her family raise awareness of the disease she suffers from.
Together we can ensure that all children grow up joyful, happy and won’t suffer from prejudice.