Parent Perspectives: Digital Learning for Medically Complex Children

Branyon family medically complex great hearts online digital learning

This post is adapted from a letter that LaVernia parent Kristin Branyon wrote to advocate for funding digital learning in 2021–2022 school year for her medically complex children and all families in their situation. For context, see the main post, “Texas Needs to Be in the Top Tier Among States for Digital Learning,” Jonathan R. and Mariah L. Hornok, San Antonio Charter Moms, July 19, 2021.

My name is Kristin Branyon and I am a certified teacher as well as a mom of four. I am writing this regarding funding for online charter schools, specifically Great Hearts Online. The reason that we are so desperate to send our children to the online campus for Great Hearts is because we really have no other options. You see, I have a son who is handicapped, as well as two other children who are medically complex.

Our story is a crazy one, so please bear with me as I give you our history. In 2009, at the age of six months, my son Luke was diagnosed with CVID, which means he has no immune system, no fighter cells and most importantly no memory cells, which means that every sickness, virus, etc., is brand new to his little body every time. At the age of one year he started receiving IVIG treatments every month. Then, in 2017 he got very, very sick. He was dying and we couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him. Through extensive testing and lung biopsies, he was finally diagnosed with GLILD (Granulomas Interstitial Lung Disease). It was unheard of for a child to be diagnosed at the age of five, as most people are diagnosed at the age of 15–20 and have a life expectancy of 15–20 years. Currently, through constant chemo treatments and IVIG treatments, by the grace of God, he is now in “remission” although his disease will never go away, and eventually the granulomas will start growing again. For these reasons, he has to be homeschooled. Our other three children also have to be homeschooled because we can’t take the chance of them bringing home something that could ultimately kill Luke.

In the past year, my other two children were diagnosed with profound dyslexia, my six year old has also developed CVID because his immune system has also quit working, and my oldest son became Type 1 diabetic after contracting COVID. To say that we are a medically challenged family is an understatement.

God knows I have tried my best to homeschool my children to the best of my abilities, but with all the doctor appointments we have to be at as well as our financial limitations due to medical expenses, it has proven to be near impossible. I know that I have not been able to provide my children the education that they deserve, but we honestly had no other options. As a teacher and mother, this is devastating. We discovered Great Hearts Online last year and it was an answered prayer. The charter school has an amazing special needs department so my children with dyslexia would be receiving the best intervention under the circumstances, as well as therapy options to help my son Luke deal with his medical trauma. My children would finally be ale to attend classes with their peers and I honestly cried tears of joy. There was FINALLY a place for my medically challenged children to fit. They FINALLY had the chance to be “normal.”

Imagine my complete and total devastation upon hearing that funding for Great Hearts Online had been stripped. The wind was completely knocked out of us. We are back to square one. My handicapped child and his medically challenged siblings don’t belong anymore. There is no place for children such as mine, and believe me there are more of us.

As a mother of a handicapped child and medically complex children, through no fault of their own, as well as an educator, I am asking that funding for Great Hearts Online be reinstated. Please I beg you to give my children a home among their peers. Please I beg you to help me give them the education they deserve. Not just for my medically challenged children, but for all of us moms and dads of medically challenged children.

Thank you, Ron, Kristin, James, Luke, Owen, and Emily Branyon

For context about Kristin Branyon’s letter advocating for digital learning for her medically complex children, see the main post, “Texas Needs to Be in the Top Tier Among States for Digital Learning,” Jonathan R. and Mariah L. Hornok, San Antonio Charter Moms, July 19, 2021.

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