Risks Must Be Taken

Brianne Schwantes was born with thirteen broken bones. All the major bones in her arms and legs were broken, along with a number of her ribs.

The doctors told Brianne’s parents she would only live a few hours. The hospital priest was called in to give her the last rites and her parents cried.

But Brianne wouldn’t give up. Somehow, she made it through the night.

The next day she was diagnosed with a rare bone disease called Osteogenesis Imperfecta. The doctors now said they didn’t know how long she would live, but they were certain her bones were so brittle they would never bear weight. The doctors told Brianne’s parents she could never have a normal life and live independently. They said that the best thing to do was to put her in an institution and forget about her.

But they didn’t know Brianne. They saw the size of her body but they could not see the size of her heart. Nor could they see the strength of her spirit.

Fortunately, her parents did. They decided that if she wouldn’t give up they wouldn’t give up either. They took her home on a feather pillow, popsicle sticks taped to her limbs as makeshift splints, and went looking for alternatives.

They found a group of physicians who were just starting a research protocol for children with this disease and enrolled her in this program. Brianne was so fragile she could break a bone by sneezing, but they encouraged her to learn to walk and challenged her to grow.

Since then, Brianne has had face surgery, leg surgery, and back surgery. She spent her sixteenth birthday in the emergency room with a neck brace, and has had, in her words, more broken bones than Evil Knievel. But each time, she wouldn’t quit. And each time, her fragile body has gotten stronger.

“It’s hard to stop listening when people tell you to quit,” she says. “It’s hard to ignore the world when it seems no one thinks you can succeed; but it gets easier. The first time you believe in yourself enough to accomplish the impossible an inner strength is created that lasts a lifetime.”

To be blessed, like Brianne, we must be willing to step out into the unknown with only faith to face fear. Risk must be taken. If we do not extend ourselves, we simply cannot learn, feel, change, grow, love, or live.

Brianne surpassed all expectations for her future on the second day of her life. In the years since, she has single-handly rewritten the protocols for treatment of her disease. She graduated graduated from American University and is currently in graduate school at Marquette. She lives independently and walks without assistance. She still breaks an occasional bone with the frequency the rest of us get the flu, but nothing can break her spirit.

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