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Military Family Month

Air Force family balances life while raising severely disabled child

Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

Published: 12:03PM November 22nd, 2017

U.S. Air Force Photo

Capt. Steven Braddick, left, explores his family’s new camper trailer with his two-year-old Nicholas, 16-year-old Nathan and his wife, Renee, in Charleston, S.C., Nov. 7.

For one family from Joint Base Charleston, S.C., having a terminally ill child has required even more sacrifice, teamwork and dedication.

Captain Steven Braddick, 628th Civil Engineer Squadron, was two years into his Air Force career when his now 16-year-old son, Nathan Braddick, was born with 32 genetic duplications causing severe lifelong health conditions.

Shortly after birth, Nathan was diagnosed with a ventricle septal defect, also known as a hole in the heart, as well as a heart valve disorder. After open heart surgery, Braddick and his family thought the worst was behind them.

“They repaired the hole in his heart and the valve,” Braddick said. “So at the time, we thought we were good. The heart is fixed, he’s going to grow up to be a normal child. Later, we went to the 12-month post-op checkup and once again the floodgates opened.”

Nathan was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension, a serious condition which could ultimately lead to heart failure. When genetic testing technology advanced in 2010, he was officially diagnosed with MECP2 duplication syndrome.

The rare disorder is characterized by severe intellectual disability, impaired motor function and, for Nathan, it also meant over 80 hospitalizations for lung infections alone.

“The deployments are really hard, because of having to take care of Nathan,” Renee Braddick said, Nathan’s mom. “Actually, last time Steven was deployed he was brought back twice because Nathan was taken to the hospital in critical condition. The Air Force was very good about making sure we got him back so we could be in the hospital together. The Air Force has always worked really hard for us.”

Volunteers from Hands of Hope, an organization providing pediatric comfort care to children with life-limiting illnesses, nominated Nathan for a gift from the Make-A-Wish Foundation. After hearing Nathan was selected for a gift, the family chose to receive a camper trailer so Nathan could have a private, quiet environment on the road.

“Nathan really enjoys road trips,” Braddick said. “He loves going for a drive; he likes watching the cars driving by.’”