When Bronson McPhail was two weeks old, his parents rushed him to the Alberta Children's Hospital where he was diagnosed with E. coli meningitis. Doctors gave a grim prognosis of fewer than 24 hours to live. But this past month, on August 31, little Bronson celebrated his sixth birthday.

Although Bronson's parents lived through one of the worst nightmares any parent can fathom, they also had to come to terms with another medical complication that Bronson would be diagnosed with when he was a toddler. At two years old, he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Kayla McPhail, Bronson's mom explained that currently, Bronson uses a wheelchair to be able to have mobility and the family's life revolves around countless doctor's visits, including physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. 

"Right now, in the house, we have to disassemble his wheelchair to fit into our vehicle, especially in the winter months. We can't just put it in the back of a car and take it around and then we have to carry him into the vehicle and strap them in into his car seat. It probably takes me a good 10 to 15 minutes to load him in and disassemble everything. Then when we get to where we're going, that's another 10 minutes of getting everything out. So you're looking at like a good half hour to 40 minutes of loading and disassembling."

But as Bronson's birthday was nearing this year, his aunt, Jessalyn McPhail, Kayla's sister-in-law, wanted to do something extraordinary for him. Jessalyn started a gofundme campaign that was meant to bring in money so that the family may purchase a wheelchair-accessible vehicle, which can cost upwards of $100,000. Airdronians, both friends and family, as well as strangers have donated $54,607 to the campaign.

​  Kayla McPhail says she and her family are overwhelmed with the amount of support she has received from Airdronians after her sister-in-law started a gofundme for her six-year old son, Bronson (Photo provided by Kayla McPhail)  ​Kayla McPhail said her family has been overwhelmed by the amount of support the community has shown in response to a gofundme campaign that was set up by her sister-in-law, for her son, Bronson (Photo by Kayla McPhail)

"It's absolutely incredible. It has pulled on all of our heartstrings. We didn't even think we would even reach a goal like that. We knew we had a good support system through family and close friends, but so many people have reached out that we don't even know and it's just, it's so overwhelming," McPhail said. "We had a really tough year, this last year. It seemed to be that every month we were in the hospital with pneumonia, then we had COVID. Every other month there was something so we just couldn't get a break."

She explained that although there are subsidies and grants for parents and families who have special needs children, those are not nearly enough to cover the costs of a wheelchair-accessible vehicle. Apart from Bronson being in a wheelchair, there are many other things that he needs. McPhail said that because he can't feed himself due to a risk of aspirating and developing pneumonia, Bronson underwent surgery this past summer to have a feeding tube inserted.

"He can't dress independently, can't shower independently, so, we're literally doing everything and anything for him, but he has overcome so many obstacles. He fought for his life to be here; this is the least we can do: fight for him and keep going for him and advocating for him."

But in many ways, Bronson is like any other six-year-old boy. His mother said he is a happy-go-lucky, laid-back little boy who is absolutely loving his time in Grade one. McPhail said she has also made a brochure about Bronson and Cerebal Palsy and distributed it to friends and neighbours to better help them understand Bronson's diagnosis and to also help start a conversation about how parents and children should have conversations about it. McPhail said that like any six-year-old Bronson has his likes and dislikes, although his communication may simply be different. 

With the gofundme campaign only shy of approximately a little over $15,000 dollars of its $75,000 goal, McPhail said that the purchase of the van will change many things for the family, but most of all for Bronson. 

"We're just trying to look at the future and what can help us. This vehicle will definitely do that because we can essentially get him dressed for the day, put him in his wheelchair, wheel him outside and right into the van and go to his appointments. [This way] he doesn't get a miss out on anything that typical kids and family get to do with each other."

According to various statistics, it is estimated that one out of every 500 babies, and up to one in three premature babies is affected to some extent by cerebral palsy and that there are over 60,000 Canadians with the diagnosis. 

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