Shortly after birth Owen suffered a left thalamic infarct, which is a stroke caused by the lack of blood flow to the left side of his thalamus. This important part of the brain controls sensory perception, movement, and consciousness.
It wasn't long after Owen was born that he was airlifted to the nearest NICU in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where doctors determined he had bleeding in his brain. While the bleeding and the stroke fortunately left Owen physically capable, it all but destroyed his speech and language.
"Owen has been in intensive physical, occupational, and speech therapy since the day he was born," his mother Britt Brozak told us. "Even after 10 years of therapy, he has never complained once," she proudly added.
Owen struggles greatly with reading, writing, and overall communication. He's a proud little man and doesn't want the aid of big, clunky devices that help him communicate – he'd rather learn to do it himself. We think that's an admirable stance to take, especially for a kid who's closing in on his teenage years. While Owen doesn't physically show any signs of someone who suffered a massive stroke as an infant, he deals with the effects of his brain injury every day as he suffers from extreme memory loss, ADHD, reading, speech, and learning disabilities. Technically, Owen has apraxia and aphasia of speech.
When we asked Owen's mother what his immediate therapy goals are, she told us simply: "To speak intelligibly so that others that do not know Owen will understand what he is trying to communicate."
Owen was a unique case for Holton's Heroes, as we've only helped children with physical hurdles to overcome. We spoke with Owen's parents numerous times and consulted with one of our board members, a pediatric neurologist at the Children's Hospital of Los Angeles, which finally led us in the direction that seemed to make the most sense.
Owen's mother explained how even though she and her husband are hard-working college graduates, times have been tough and Owen's father found himself out of work. Britt has been working two jobs just to make ends meet, which sadly hasn't been enough to send Owen to all the medically necessary therapy classes he needs to improve.
After careful consideration, Owen's family qualified to receive a special therapy grant from Holton's Heroes that will be used specifically for Owen's costly out-of-pocket therapy. But of course, we recognized that as much as Owen's parents appreciate the gift of a financial grant, that's not very exciting for a third grader. So, for fun – and for therapy, of course ;) – we were able to give Owen a brand new iPad that he can use to download dozens of available therapy and communication apps. And any game, movie, or song his brave heart desires.