How WVU Medicine Children’s dedication to caring is changing the lives of children

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Brantly Poling

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Brantly Poling, like most eight-year-olds, is full of life, smiles, and a spirit that could put a smile on just about anyone’s face.

But if not for WVU Medicine Children’s, he would likely not be like this because of how he was born.

“Brantly was born with spina bifida and hydrocephalus, which means the spine didn’t form completely before he was born, leaving many of his nerves exposed and damaged,” Brantly’s mom, Brooke Poling, said. “He is paralyzed from the belly button down. He has a VP shunt in his brain that helps drain extra fluid. With the nerve damage, with spina bifida he was –, it affects his bowels, his bladder, his stomach and then his brain and mobility.”

All of this means young Brantly has had more than 37 surgeries including replacing VP shunts and bladder reconstruction surgery. Roughly 25 of those surgeries came by the time he was six and they all happened prior to his arrival at WVU Medicine Children’s.

His family lived in Walker, West Virginia, and their insurance sent them to Columbus, Ohio, for treatment. His mother said she and the rest of the family had many concerns, including the fact that there was excess fluid building in his back.

However, when Brantly was six, his parents decided to try WVU Medicine Children’s for a second opinion.

“They took our concerns seriously,” Poling said. “They went above and beyond to figure out what was going on and how to fix the problem and have exceeded our expectations on the care Brantly has received. He’s had — he ended up spending over two weeks in the ICU after being admitted directly from his first appointment because there were some serious issues going on with his brain and the extra fluid.”

Brantly outside of the hospital’s Family Resource Center

Brantly has been in and out of the hospital for different issues, but every time he returns, his mom said she can rest assured her son is receiving exceptional care.

That care, his mother, means everything to the family, especially considering they were told Brantly would have multiple cognitive and developmental delays as a result of the brain surgeries.

“But, obviously, Brantly likes to prove everybody wrong,” Poling said. “And with the help of the medical team, they’ve been able to stay on top of the concerns before they cause more damage.”

In hindsight, she said, she would’ve chosen to go to WVU Medicine Children’s immediately and she’s not the only one that feels that way.

“The doctors and nurses feel like family here to me,” Brantly said. “They’re just so kind and really nice.”

Brantly and Brooke Poling in the Family Resource Center

Brantly has found solace in his treatment at the hospital, where, like any eight-year-old, he pranks staff through phone calls and yelling snake. But he also brings cheer to the hospital by helping people pick up things they drop or, one time, driving his remote control car around filled with candy for others until it ran out of battery.

All of this is probably why Brantly is the WVU Medicine Children’s 2020 Children’s Miracle Network (CMN) Champion Child.

CMN is a nonprofit network of hospitals in the U.S. and Canada dedicated to raising funds for patients in children’s hospitals. As the Champion Child, Brantly and his family are advocates and the embodiment of what is possible through CMN hospitals like WVU Medicine Children’s.

That level of comfort and the solid foundations on which a relationship was built with the hospital means the entire Poling family feels at home there. Poling said the relationship is a direct consequence of the care and service the dedicated professionals provide.

“I would absolutely recommend WVU Medicine Children’s,” Poling said. “If you want to be listened to, if you want your child to receive the best care, I would definitely recommend bringing them here.”

Artist rendering of new hospital

WVU Medicine Children’s mission is to see no child left untreated and it plans on truly living out that mission through building its new hospital. The Grow Children’s campaign is raising money for the hospital, which is set for completion in the summer of 2021. It will have all the care and services a mother and baby could need all under one roof.

For more information about the new hospital, you can visit the Grow Children’s website to take a virtual tour and find out all the details.

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