Little Brandon was born at 10:43am in the morning on a cold winter’s day. Our second child after the birth of our daughter Shannon, Brandon weighed 8 lbs exactly! He was a go getter right from the beginning and learned very quickly how to melt our hearts. As a child he was very active.He never did take naps in the afternoon which wore his mom out! I used to wonder if all little boys were as energetic as him. Brandon never got sick when he was small but we noticed he started having sleeping problems at the age of 8 or 9.I would come into his room and read to him, sing, tell him little made up stories about a tropical island, trying to get him to visualize the peace and tranquility to soothe his restless mind.
Brandon was good at all sports and a very talented artist. He loved school! and never wanted to miss a day, no matter how tired he might have been from dealing with these sleep issues. He was a fantastic baseball player and loved going to his games! I sometimes wondered how far he could have gone with that sport as an adult. He was that good!
At the age of 10 a young boy in our neighborhood died tragically. This was a a boy who was well known and well loved and both my children knew him in school. After the funeral Brandon started obsessing and worrying about death and losing us, he seemed to be consumed with worry and then he started having nightmares. During this time he had been taking karate lessons and would obsess about his body image and feelings that he needed to lose weight. He was not overweight. He was solid muscle. I tried to explain to him that children, once they reach the age of puberty go through a growth spurt and any little “baby fat” they might have disappears.
No matter what I said it did not calm his anxiety about this and soon he began ritualistic exercising. Every day after school he would do tons of sit up, jump on his trampoline and then go for a 45 min bike ride. At the time the style was “baggy pants” so I did not notice right away that he was losing weight until one day as he came out of the bathroom with no shirt on and I noticed how thin he had become. A week later as I was hanging clothes out on the clothesline I spotted him in the corner of our backyard sticking his fingers down his throat to vomit. I was completely shocked and stunned! Right away I thought eating disorder?! How could this possibly be?! Only girls get eating disorders! I was in for a very rude awakening.
Over the next few months our lives turned into a nightmare. I informed our doctor and he confirmed that Brandon did indeed have an eating disorder. He was diagnosed with severe Anorexia/Bulimia in the spring of 1995 at the age of 10. Bulimia was his main method of losing weight. He was put into a treatment program at a local hospital in pediatrics for 13 months. He was tube fed by a naso gastric tube feed and basically the program was a behavior modification one where they rewarded him for gaining weight and punished him for losing by taking away privileges.
Brandon only got sicker and sicker and developed intractable vomiting (physically he could not keep any food down). He was on IV’s constantly and was so thin it was heartbreaking for us as his family to watch and feel so completely helpless. We tried begging, pleading, nothing worked! In the end we went public.
A local newspaper did a story on Brandon and eventually his story was picked up by the Vancouver Province. Meanwhile in the hospital one night he stuffed his bed with a teddy bear and his small stereo (to make it look like someone was sleeping in it) then he climbed out the window, 3 floors up, slid down a pipe and went missing for 12 hrs. The hospital was frantic as he was at risk of a heart attack due to the dehydration from vomiting. Search and rescue was set up in the parking lot and everyone was looking for him. He told us later:”I just wanted to go home.”
Due to the severity of his illness and because of what happened he was then transferred to Children’s Hosp in Vancouver. By this time the doctors were desperate and asking us:”What do u want us to do?”. During a care team meeting we discovered that Brandon’s father had once had an eating disorder as a young teen, only his was no where near as severe as Brandon’s. Brandon was also diagnosed with moderate obsessive compulsive disorder, addictive personality, and anxiety.
In the Spring of 1997 a doctor from England who was helping set up an eating disorder unit at Children’s Hosp agreed to take Brandon into a residential treatment facility in England, just outside of London. He told us that we could expect to be in England for 6 months to a year. Local realtors started a trust fund in British Columbia and soon the people of B.C raised over $25,000 dollars to help get Brandon the treatment he needed.
We stayed in a small apartment close to the facility where Brandon was staying and we were there for 13 long months. In the end they had to drug Brandon for months and perform a “jejuostomy” where they bypassed the stomach and fed him directly into his intestines. That way he did not get that “full” feeling in his tiny tummy and there was nothing for him to vomit. Even while in England the doctors were worried that we would lose him. I always wondered if something had happened to Brandon that neither his father, myself, or the doctors were aware of. Despite being questioned by his doctors Brandon maintained he had never been hurt of molested by anyone. All we knew is that he had a happy healthy childhood and we needed him well again and with his family.
In 1998 we came back to Canada. Brandon looked the picture of health, they had pumped 4000 calories daily into his body and kept him sedated for months to “fatten” him up to a healthy body weight again. In the early summer of 2000 Reader’s Digest featured a story of Brandon and his struggles throughout his illness. Soon after we arrived back home he started experimenting with drugs, first with marijuana and then prescription drugs. His drug use continued until he died in September of 2013. We fought tooth and nail to save his precious life, in and out of rehabs.
Brandon suffered so much and carried tremendous guilt for all the pain that he knew we were going through worrying about him frantically every day and night. His father did absolutely everything humanly possible to help him, we both did, but in the end Brandon died of an accidental prescription drug overdose. My life feels so empty, I am shattered and although I know he is not suffering anymore, I don’t have my son. All the hopes and dreams I had for him to just be happy and healthy are gone. All he wanted was to feel normal, to have all the things we take for granted, a good job, friends, and maybe a nice girlfriend. Brandon wanted to be well but the addiction was just too strong, too powerful and he was so unhappy.
I would have traded my life in a heartbeat for my son. I remember when he was a little boy how he’d say:”I love u soooo much mom!”, I’d say “I love u more!” and then he would look at me with a big smile and say “I love you to eternity mom!”
-Created by Marie