From Boston to Jacksonville, Fla., the family has watched as some of the country’s best neurosurgeons have operated six times in four years on their son, who has suffered through numerous ailments, many of which are the result of Arnold–Chiari malformation, a growth disorder caused by structural defects in the cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls balance.
The couple described the care as “super,” even “amazing,” until they came to Augusta, where the level of community service jumped to “phenomenal.”
Since the family arrived at Georgia Regents Medical Center’s Children’s Hospital of Georgia last week, Richmond County sheriff’s officers and their families have banded together to offer food, money and support to the boy, whose father is a deputy at the Clay County Sheriff’s Office in Florida.
The greatest gesture is set to come Friday, when the sheriff’s office will hold a silent auction and spaghetti dinner to help pay for expenses connected to Brayden’s treatment.
“We have been completely blown away by the love and support we have received during our time in Augusta, so much that I feel like I have a second family now,” his mother, Amanda Wendorff, said in a telephone interview this week. “The local law enforcement community has welcomed us with open arms, which is how it should be. We do not even get this level of attention at home.”
Amanda Wendorff said her family checked into Georgia Regents Medical Center on March 22.
A day earlier, at 10 a.m., the Georgia Auxiliary of Wives Behind the Badges sent out a message on Facebook asking whether it had any members near Augusta that were “available to help a law enforcement family in need.”
Within 30 minutes, Krystle Harden, Barbara Evans and Laura Turner, the wives of three Richmond County deputies, replied. Over the next couple of days, they began to organize a fundraiser for the family, recruit restaurateurs to donate food and arrange for Sheriff Richard Roundtree to visit the family in the hospital.
Evans admitted she had her doubts about whether she, Harden and Turner would be able to find volunteers to participate in the effort, but now the first-time fundraiser said the women expect between 300 and 400 people to attend the pasta dinner, scheduled from 6 to 9 p.m. inside the dining hall at Richmond County Sheriff’s Office Range Dining Hall at 2098 Greenland Road in Blythe.
The meal – costing $7 for plates and $22 for families of four – will include a salad, spaghetti, and choice of tea or lemonade. Baked goods will be available on request, and there will be a silent auction, donations to which are still being accepted through the sheriff’s office.
“The response has been fantastic,” Evans said. “We are kind of shocked by the way it has spread.”
Lt. Lewis Blanchard, of the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office’s Community Services Division, has helped promote the event and said he is not surprised by the support because officers and firefighters share a bond that is universal among agencies.
“Law enforcement is a very close family,” Blanchard said. “Anytime any officer sees another in need, it is our duty to step up and help out any way we can.”
Though a meal might not seem like much, Amanda Wendorff said it means the world to her family, which will remain in Augusta until next week, when it is scheduled to return home to Jacksonville to begin rehabilitation.
On Monday, Brayden endured his sixth major brain surgery, but this time the results were less successful. Complications led to his losing movement in the entire left side of his body, but he is starting to regain movement as of Wednesday night.
“It has been a rough couple of days,” Amanda Wendorff said.
More accurately, she has written in her online blog, it has been a rough several years.
The Wendorff family troubles began in 2009, when Brayden, then 5, came home from school and fell to the floor crying with a headache.
After four years of migraines, slurred speech, constricted arteries, leg and arm numbness, and a pediatric stroke, Brayden and his parents have consulted a half-dozen doctors and specialists in Boston and Jacksonville, endured countless tests and exams, and waited through six major brain surgeries.
The family has insurance, but the deductible is $2,100 and the costs are mounting, even though the family has set up a donation account at BBVA Compass Bank to cover medical costs.
Amanda Wendorff said the process has been emotionally draining for the family, but with support from communities such as Augusta, they are confident their story will have a happy ending.
“I am proud of the community and what we have been able to accomplish in such a short time for a family we barely even know,” Evans said. “It shows how big a heart Augusta has.”