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The story of Gunner… Gunner was born the day after last Christmas. When we at long last laid eyes on our 3rd beautiful baby, he was everything we dreamed he would be. Immediately after his (normal) birth, the OBGYN looks around at all of my family in the room as if he is looking for something. Finally he said ‘I am trying to figure out who’s ears he inherited.’ I didn’t think much about it. My baby was perfect to me.

After bringing our blue bundle home, we notice a few things that differed from our previous babies. The most prominent thing was how much he cried. It was pretty much constant. Also, at first I was scared to say out loud that his ears and head were misshaped. But finally at 12 days old, I accepted the fact that things were not as they should be. I searched the internet for info about ear deformities and found other babies with the same problem. I took him to his Dr. immediately. He told me that there wasn’t anything that could help his ears until the growing slows down (around 5 years old). Then he would require surgery. I was inconsolable. Not wanting my son to go through the pain of surgery, I began searching for someone that could help him during infancy. The answer was the Earwell System. The Earwell System is a series of ‘braces’ that gently guide the cartilage into the correct place. The problems with getting them were: 1. The newborn must get the system before reaching 14 days old (when the cartilage locks into place) to have the most success. 2. The closest Doctor that did them was 4 hours away.

So, I called immediately, expecting them to say that by the time he could get an appointment, he would be too old, as he was already 12 days old. But, the cheery voice on the other end said to bring him ASAP and they would stay at the office to wait for us. The system worked! After traveling once a week for 6 weeks to Ashville, NC from our home in middle TN. His ears are almost average looking… Prayers answered! The next bump in Gunner’s road was his crying continued to worsen. Then he began to pass blood in his diaper. By the time we rushed him to Children’s Hospital, his diapers were completely filled with it.

After a 5 day stay and many tests, he was diagnosed with a severe protein allergy and failure to thrive. we were so worried and had no idea that he was being ‘poisoned’ by breast milk every time he nursed and was in a lot of pain. Now, he is on a special pharmaceutical grade formula, healthy and thriving beautifully. The next thing to tackle was his head shape. His Pediatrician diagnosed him with severe plagiocephely. Needless to say, he required a cranial helmet. We were referred to Hanger. I was worried about how things would go due to Gunner’s major social anxiety, but, he absolutely loves everyone there! After he was scanned and received his helmet, I noticed the attention it was drawing. I didn’t like the stares and looks of pity from others, so, I decided to paint it. I wanted people to notice the fun design more than the medical device. The responses are overwhelming! Every time we are out and about, so many people comment, ask questions, and like he neat theme… Mission accomplished! Our Gunner is a tough fighter, and loves the movie ‘UP’ so, what could be more fitting than a bomber helmet? Everyone loves his helmet and other wearers of orthotics have sent things for me to paint.

I love and enjoy every piece I have painted. I am so thankful that God blessed us with our perfect Gunner and the chance for me to ‘pay it forward’ and help other children (and some adults) by giving them a paint job that ‘breaks the ice’ for them as well. He is has had his helmet about 6 weeks now and he is doing awesome! Thanks for reading about Gunner!