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Outlook 2020: Straight from the heart; Bronson Shirley’s life is ahead of him because of lifesaving surgery | Local News

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Outlook 2020: Straight from the heart; Bronson Shirley's life is ahead of him because of lifesaving surgery

TANNER MONDOK | HeraldBronson Shirley chews on his fingers while being held by his mom, Kylee Phillips, at the Avalon Country Club at Buhl Park.  

When Kylee Phillips takes her son to Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh to see his cardiologist or the date of a checkup approaches, she is anxious.

No matter how many times she is told the visit is just routine, or that there is no need to rush back, she still hesitates — and worries.

Her heart beats a little faster and the familiar feelings come back.

Those appointments bring back memories of a day not so long ago when a seemingly routine pediatrician visit ended with her little boy in the hospital — and began a journey she and her husband, Travis Shirley, are still on, even if, now, it is one of hope, blessings and promise.

Bronson Shirley is a bouncy, happy baby.

The 5-month-old squirms to catch the eye of his mom and brightens and giggles when he is face to face with his dad.

He poses and flirts with the camera and anyone else who happens by.

Looking at him, you wouldn’t know that his story is about a rocky start, a chance discovery and a battle no baby should face.

The American Heart Association’s Mercer/Lawrence County Heart Child is OK now, thanks to loving parents and a medical team that fixed his heart.

Kylee and Travis have three children.

Kylee grew up near Buhl Park. Travis is from West Middlesex. Although they live out of town now, they have a lot of family here.

Knowing they would be welcoming another child was a joyous event.

The first two births were uneventful.

Tyson, 5, and Teegan, 3, went right into Kylee’s arms for those first pictures and a kiss from Mom and Dad.

Bronson came into the world a little differently.



Outlook 2020: Staight from the heart; Bronson Shirley's life is ahead of him because of lifesaving surgery

Kylee Phillips talks about her son, Bronson Shirley, as dad Travis Shirley clutches Bronson’s tiny foot.TANNER MONDOK | Herald

Kylee was scheduled for a caesarian with no indication that it would be anything but routine.

As they waited for their turn to be called back, Travis and Kylee listened to all that was going around them, happy that their own situation was so straight-forward and feeling for the parents who were there for much less joyous reasons.

They weren’t worried at all.

Then their turn came.

And that is when “routine” turned into anything but.

“When you have a C-section, they hold (the baby) up,” Kylee said. “They wrap him up and give him to the father.”

That did not happen with Bronson.

The doctor told Kylee and Travis that their son was having a little trouble breathing.

“They called a Code Blue,” Travis said.

Kylee and Travis could not see what was happening with their son.

“We weren’t allowed to look around the curtain,” Travis said.

He did catch a glimpse, however.

“He was bluish,” Travis said.

Bronson was rushed to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Kylee was still recovering from her own surgical procedure, so she had to wait. Travis, however, got to go down and see their son.

He remembers the tubes, the machines, the concern.



Outlook 2020: Straight from the heart; Bronson Shirley's life is ahead of him because of lifesaving surgery

TANNER MONDOK | HeraldTravis Shirley shows the tattoo on his arm that he put on social media minutes before his son, Bronson Shirley, was born. It’s his favorite Bible verse, Ezekiel 37:5, “I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.”

He also remembers celebrating the impending birth of his son on Facebook by quoting his favorite Bible verse, Ezekiel 37:5, “I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.” He has it tattooed on his arm.

All that seemed frivolous as he sat there hoping his boy was going to be OK.

He wanted to hear him cry, to know he was breathing easily.

“That was all I could think about — how I had put that on Facebook and now my son was having trouble breathing,” he said.

Kylee and Travis took solace in the reassurance from their son’s doctor — “Don’t worry, his heart is strong.”

Soon, Bronson was ready to go home.

He was doing well, a normal happy baby.

And it is was time for a routine one-month checkup.

It was a different pediatrician that day.

She checked him over and listened to his heart.

And that is when she looked at Kylee and said, “I think I hear a heart murmur. Would you want to see a cardiologist?”

Kylee and Travis did and the appointment was set — a quick turnaround.

The pediatrician visit was Wednesday. Bronson got an appointment the following Monday.

“People were surprised we got in so quickly,” Kylee said.

It was just one of the many blessings that are part of their story, she says now.

When the day arrived, Kylee wasn’t worried.

Travis could not be with her, but she expected to be home with good news well before it was time for her other two children to come home from school.

It wasn’t to be.

“I got the worst news of my life,” she said.

Bronson’s echocardiogram took 45 minutes.

“I was there alone,” she said.

She called a friend who came to be with her until Travis could get there.

She also made arrangements to get her children home.

“It was hard to be alone,” she said.

Bronson was admitted right away.



Outlook 2020: Straight from the heart; Bronson Shirley's life is ahead of him because of lifesaving surgery

TANNER MONDOK | HeraldKylee Phillips wipes away a tear while telling the story of her son, Bronson Shirley. The boy endured heart surgery when he was just a month old.

Kylee credits Dr. Shawn West at Children’s Hospital for getting her and Travis through the tough stuff.

“He made everything seem OK even when it wasn’t,” she said.

Bronson could not go into surgery right away.

Doctors put him on medicine to get him ready to make sure that his body could handle the trauma it was about to go through.

His heart surgery was scheduled for Wednesday.

Kylee and Travis did not want their other children to know how serious the operation was — or that there was a risk that their brother would not make it home.

They told Teegan and Tyson that Bronson was sick and he was in the hospital to get better.

“We had the kids come in because we did not know,” Kylee said, wiping away a tear at the memory. “We just didn’t know.”

The hardest part was the wait. The surgery took about an hour.

“It was really scary,” Kylee said.

The surgery involved clamping off part of Bronson’s aorta, which meant cutting off the flow of blood to part of his body.

But he was a lucky boy. The surgery went well.

“When they brought him back up, he was wrapped up,” Kylee said. “He did not look like he had been through what he had been through.”

And then the recovery began.

Kylee was there most nights, with Travis focusing on making sure Tyson and Teegan were OK and being at the hospital as often as possible.

Bronson was always on his mind.

Kylee and Travis feel blessed.

They got to know the other families in the pediatric cardiac care unit.

They knew their stories were not as happy as Bronson’s.

Some spent months in the hospital with children who were fighting hard, crying often and not thriving the way their little boy was.

The nights were the hardest. As Bronson slept soundly, they heard other babies struggling. It broke Kylee’s heart.

“Sometimes, I would just lay there and cry,” she said.

They felt for the other parents, and always kept their miracle in perspective.

“Emotionally, you are there with your child, but you can’t help but see what is going on around you,” Travis said.

They were the lucky ones, the blessed ones, Kylee and Travis said.

It is something they think about a lot.

“We had the best-case scenario with him,” Kylee said.

It is why they agreed to tell Bronson’s story and to represent the American Heart Association as the 2020 Heart Child family.

“We wanted to say thank you to everyone who supported making the treatments possible that helped Bronson,” Travis said. “We are so grateful for the support for our family and others.”



Outlook 2020: Straight from the heart; Bronson Shirley's life is ahead of him because of lifesaving surgery

TANNER MONDOK | HeraldBronson Shirley sleeps on his mom, Kylee Phillip’s, shoulder at the Avalon Country Club at Buhl Park. 

Bronson’s fight is not over.

Doctors are keeping a close eye on his heart.

He might have to have more surgery later, although he might not.

Kylee isn’t resting easy yet. That’s why the appointments still make her uneasy.

But she knows that her son is strong, happy and thriving. She smiles and hugs him close, grateful and proud. The tears that come now are the remnants of the journey so far — and a glimpse into what will be a bright future. She knows Bronson is special.

He is his daddy’s boy, his brother’s buddy and his sister’s pride and joy.

“We are blessed,” Travis said. “We will never forget that.”



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Beaverton woman bringing smiles, warm feet to kids in hospitals | News

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BEAVERTON, OR (KPTV) – A Beaverton woman is on a mission to bring smiles and warm feet to children in need.

Andie Proskus, 27, has a muscle disease that’s kept her in the hospital for much of her life. During that time, she says she was given a pair of bright socks that brought a smile to her face and knew she had to pass along that feeling to others.

So, she organizes socks drives for local children’s hospitals. Her latest effort was on Friday night at Beaverton High School, where people tossed socks onto the basketball court.

With the help of her friends and area schools, Proskus has been collecting socks for hospitalized children. She says their reaction makes all the hard work worth it.

“I can relate a lot to what the families and the kids are going through, and it not only brings a smile to their face, and helps brighten their day up for a little bit, but it’s also very therapeutic for me, and warms my heart to see the smiles something as simple as a pair of colorful, fun pair of socks can bring,” Proskus said.

Proskus has been doing these sock drives for about six years. She says she collected more than 100 pairs of socks the first year and has now collected over 10,000.

Copyright 2020 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.

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