CRESTVIEW — What began as a trip to the doctor for a fever turned into Braxton Henry’s fight for his life.
Earlier this month, doctors discovered the 4-year-old had a lower-than-normal white blood cell count and referred him to Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola, where he was diagnosed with leukemia.
This isn’t Braxton’s first medical condition in his short life. He was born premature and has Down syndrome, according to his father, David Henry. Braxton had multiple surgeries, beginning before he was born and continuing into his early years. He has also undergone physical and developmental therapy, Henry said.
Through all this, Braxton was still the star of the 2015 Christmas play at his school, his father said.
Since being admitted to Sacred Heart, Braxton contracted the flu due to a weakened immune system. He is still undergoing several tests, including bone marrow testing, to determine the disease’s stage and severity. However, doctors have already advised Henry to prepare for the worst.
“They’re not sugar coating it,” said Henry.
When he arrived, Braxton couldn’t breathe on his own and spent several days on a ventilator.
Henry said that while Braxton now can breathe independently, his heart rate still fluctuates. Doctors told Henry they are waiting for the child’s condition to stabilize so they can conduct more testing.
Despite pending tests and results, doctors have begun chemotherapy on Braxton. The treatment began Dec. 18, and it’s unknown how long it will continue. Henry said in the meantime he’s been doing as much research on the disease as possible.
While doctors won’t know what caused leukemia until tests can be completed, Henry said he’s learned that children with Down syndrome have an increased risk of the disease.
The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s research center states doctors have long connected children with Down syndrome to an increased risk of acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The institute cites the risk is approximately 20 times greater than that of people without Down syndrome.
Still, Henry maintains hope — and he’s not the only one.
Even at his young age, Braxton has been a role model to his little brother, Bryce, according to Henry. Bryce, who was born in October 2014, also faced a medical battle: He and his twin brother, Brentley, were also born prematurely. While in the hospital after birth, Brentley contracted MRSA and died. Henry said Bryce pulled through at the time but needs to be evaluated for autism, adding to the family’s pressures.
Medical expenses have begun to mount, and have put extra strain on Henry and his family. Henry said he was laid off from his job around Thanksgiving and Braxton’s mother can’t work due to her son’s situation.
Henry has launched a GoFundMe webpage to help raise money for Braxton’s medical expenses. Any additional funds received beyond the goal amount will be donated to the Children’s Miracle Network and to cancer research.
The campaign’s searchable name is “Braxton’s Fight Against Leukemia.”