In Winona, TX, there’s a rambunctious home where you’ll find Jacob, Bryson, Mason and Brayden Merchant, and their loving mother Vickie. Each of the Merchant boys has been through their own journey on their way to this family. With four boys under ten years old in one house, you can imagine how hectic any day can get, especially when you factor in doctors' appointments and medical supply upkeep!
Jacob, 9, is the oldest of the Merchant boys. When he came to the family at 3 years old, he was very small and had been neglected. He only said a few words and could not walk. Jacob has cerebral palsy, and eventually had surgery on both of his legs. Now, after surgery and lots of hard work, Jacob can run and walk! He also had his trach removed after seven years of use. Jacob has autism, so he has his own way of dealing with life which makes him very unique. He loves garbage trucks, semi-trucks, and trains (especially Thomas). It can be hard to understand him at times, but the love he gives is unconditional. His mom loves watching him overcome the barriers of autism and try something he normally would not try. She is very proud of him and how far he has come.
Bryson, 7, came to the Merchant family at 2 years old as a foster child. He was adopted into the family after his 4th birthday, and has blossomed into a headstrong, independent little man. Bryson was born with a chromosomal anomaly which resulted in a very large head and a small airway that created issues with his breathing. He had a trach placed shortly after birth and has used a vent ever since. Like most trach kids, Bryson likes to mess with and pull at his trach, but since he cannot breathe at all without it, it’s a constant worry for his mom that he’ll pull it out when she’s not looking or when his nurse isn’t looking. Today, he uses the vent at night to ease his breathing, in addition to a suction machine to help clear secretions, and a G-button with a feeding pump for his daily nutrition. He also sometimes needs help to maintain his blood sugar and has vision problems.
Bryson is unique in that he is such a hard worker and absolutely does not give up. For the first 5-6 years of his life, he was completely bed/wheelchair bound. His mom has watched him go from not being able to hold his head up, to now walking with a walker in just 3 years. She fondly remembers the first time he sat up by himself, the first time he took a step, and seeing him stand up in his bed by himself with the biggest smile on his face. He has had to work for every milestone, and then must keep working to maintain his progress. Bryson doesn’t get off days; every day includes some form of therapy, but that is how he has been able to achieve so much! It isn’t always easy, and he isn’t always enthusiastic about therapy, but when he gets in his walker, he gets the biggest smile on his face and you can see how much he enjoys his freedom and being able to explore and play. His mom gets so much joy from watching him grow and become more independent.
Mason, 6, was unable to eat by mouth or sit alone when he came to the Merchant home at 11 months old. After making lots of progress with love and therapy, he now runs, plays, talks, and eats by mouth. Mason has had to overcome respiratory failure and delays in his growth and development because of his trach, but he is doing everything now. Nothing holds him back! Today the trach is out, but he still uses a CPAP, nebulizer, and oxygen on occasion. One of the biggest challenges of caring for Mason is the amount of doctor’s appointments and many hard medical decisions. He can be stubborn and requires a lot of patience.
Mason also has Down syndrome, and is the most loving child who never meets a stranger. His mom says “he is my world; he loves so unconditionally. He is a bright light in our family.” His favorite toys are Hot Wheels cars and his play kitchen, and he likes to help his mom with cooking!
Brayden, 6, has been part of the Merchant family for 3 years now. He was placed in foster care at 15 months old because of abuse which caused the majority of his medical problems. At age 3, Brayden came to live with the Merchants, where the family quickly fell in love with him and adopted him the next year.
Brayden is unique in his unconditional love for everyone. All you have to do is sing to him or take him outside, and he’s going to love you whether you’re a stranger or someone he interacts with every day. His favorite thing is the baby shark song. The second you turn on the song, he just lights up and laughs. He could listen to that one song for hours and be happy.
Brayden has been through a lot of hurdles in his young life. He has had to overcome being blind, being shaken as a baby, and his inability to communicate. He is dependent on others for all of his needs and wants, but that has not stopped him from being a sweet and happy little boy. Brayden uses a G-button and feeding pump since he can’t eat by mouth. He also uses a BiPAP when he sleeps due to central sleep apnea and uses a nebulizer for breathing treatments. The biggest challenge with Brayden is that he cannot really communicate. He can’t tell his mom if he hurts, or where he hurts if he feels bad. He can’t express his wants to her, so he can’t say he wants to go outside, or listen to music, or “hold me.” Through all the struggles he has had, though, he is still laughing, thriving, and enjoying life. You know when he is happy because he is kicking and cooing, and you can’t help but smile watching him. He has the sweetest smile and the cutest belly laugh; he brings his mom so much joy!