Christi Jo lives with her mother Brandi on the westside of Los Angeles, where the struggles of home life rival any drama seen in the countless movies filmed mere steps from their front porch.
Christi Jo’s odds were stacked against her before she was even born, as doctors discovered a problem while she was still in utero. She had Cri du Chat Syndrome, also known as 5p- Syndrome, which is a chromosomal deletion disorder that can result in a wide spectrum of intellectual and developmental impairments. Doctors, medical professionals and trusted people within Brandi’s inner circle insisted she terminate the pregnancy, but Brandi had different plans for the life she was creating from within.
“He gave me her for a reason,” Brandi confided in us, “because He knew I wouldn’t have an abortion. I knew that Christi Jo was supposed to be here.”
Brandi blocked out the negative voices, stood firm on her decision to go full term and gave birth to beautiful Christi Jo on November 6, 2014.
As expected, there were complications that kept Christi Jo hospitalized for the first three months of her life. “She would take the bottle,” Brandi explained, “but not enough so she had to receive a G-tube [for supplemental feeding].”
Soon enough, Christi Jo was released from the hospital with her feeding tube and ready to take on the world. New mom Brandi immediately fell in love with her daughter as they started their new life together. However, just a few weeks after coming home, Brandi brought Christi Jo to the pediatrician at a nearby hospital for a general check-up when tragedy struck.
“I flagged a guy down and said, ‘She’s having trouble…’ and the next thing I know he snatched her and, at that point, I don’t know if I just watched my daughter die,” Brandi admits wiping tears from her eyes.
Luckily for Brandi, and the world, Christi Jo did not die that afternoon, but did suffer an anoxic brain injury from being without oxygen. With her mother by her side, Christi Jo would spend close to the next year of her life in the hospital.
“To live in a hospital for a year is traumatizing,” Brandi says. “But now at home our life now is not easy. The older she gets it actually gets harder, but Christi is such a happy kid and has been through so much—she’s lived through seven surgeries.”
Today, at four years old, Christi Jo is a constant testament to the unfiltered love of a mother. Due to her post-birth brain injury, she now requires a tracheostomy tube to breath. In addition, she still uses a surgically implanted gastrostomy tube (also known as a G-tube) for most of her medications and feedings. Christi Jo is severely mentally and physically impaired due to her injury. Without mincing words, Christi Jo is a warrior—just like her mother.
As anyone can imagine being a single parent in Los Angeles is not ideal, but combine that with the medical demands of a child like Christi Jo and it is close to impossible. However, they make it work.
Brandi recently started her own children’s fashion line with another mother she met in the NICU called Amana Jo. We hope you’ll check out her site and maybe purchase some fresh clothes for your little ones.
Thanks to our wonderful donors, Holton’s Heroes was able to get Christi Jo a few items to make home life easier and more comfortable. Christi Jo received a brand new GoTo Portable Support Seat to replace a bulky, heavy and uncomfortable seat she was using in the living room. This new chair is incredible, as it is easily portable so it can be used on the ground, on top of another chair or even in special grocery carts.
In addition, we also supplied Christi Jo with a brand new bath chair called Splashy that will give her better support and comfort not only when bathing, but poolside, in the snow, or at the beach! We really love this product.
With the help of our good friends at AEG Presents and the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, we were able to gift Brandi with two tickets to any show she wants to see at Microsoft Theater. (We’re even gonna cover the cost of a nurse or sitter for the evening so she can truly get away for a night!)
Of course, none of this is possible without the support of our incredible community, so thank you. If you’d like to donate so we can continue to help children like Christi Jo, you can do so here.