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Little Leo Braun

by Carol Moorman

 Six-year-old Sam Braun knew his new little brother would be born healthy.
 In fact, just days after his brother Baby Logan died the end of November in 1998, from the rare skin disease Junctional Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB), he told his mom, Sheryl, You¹re going to have a baby and we¹re going to name him Tommy and he¹s going to have good skin.
 Sam was right.
 Little Leo Thomas Tommy Braun was born at 4:56 p.m., Sunday, March 5, at the Melrose CentraCare Hospital weighing 8 pounds and with, as Sam would say, good skin.
   The first question Sheryl asked just after Leo's birth was, Is his skin OK?
 His pinkish colored skin told the story. Little Leo was born without EB.
 When I held Leo in the room, I just kept looking at his fingers, and thinking, they are perfect, absolutely perfect. My husband, Jim, looked at his fingers right away when he was born. I have been playing with them ever since, said Sheryl.
 Touching Logan¹s fingers, outside of bandaging, was something they could never do.  Even the slightest touch would cause a blister to form and Logan to cry.
 According to Sheryl, having Leo has brought back so many memories, "Some good, some bittersweet, some bad, but all of them worthwhile."

*Pregnancy perks*
 The last week of her pregnancy, Sheryl thought a lot about Baby Logan, who had endured so much pain during his short life.
 Although tests indicated there were no signs of EB in their developing baby, Jim and Sheryl, who live in rural Greenwald, still thought about it and the remotest chance that it might be there.
 I spent a lot of time thinking back to when I had been pregnant with Logan and the week before I had him, said Sheryl, formerly from Sauk Centre.  Emotionally, this was one of the hardest pregnancies she has had.
 We had to trust in God that EB would not be there, said Sheryl.  They was so relieved when all the test results came back showing their baby had the proteins necessary to keep his skin intact, unlike Logan's skin.  I cried and laughed all at once, said Sheryl.  Doctors had informed them if tests indicated their baby did have EB, he would have been born by caesarean section at Stanford University in California.  
Abortion for us, was not an option. I thank God it was not a bridge we had to cross, said Sheryl.  They refused to accept the fact that their baby would be born with EB.
 I just knew deep down that he would be all right. And then we had Sam¹s unshakable belief that Tommy would be a boy and that he would be here by his birthday and that he would have good skin and that we would be able to hold him. How do you fight that belief, said Sheryl.  "Children just believe every thing will be all right. As  adults we try to look at every situation with common sense and fear of the unknown," she added.
 Although doctors said the results were near 100 percent accurate, Sheryl started to think of all the other things that could go wrong.
 Mishaps that I heard on the news or from others filled my thoughts for days. I prayed every day that Tommy would be born healthy. That he would have none of the problems Logan had and that he would not have to endure any hardships in his life like some of the stories I had been reading about that other children born with disabilities had to endure, said Sheryl.
 They were worries she never thought about with the other children she carried. They just knew their children would be born healthy. With little Leo they prayed for good health.
 She admitted it was hard that last week, especially since she was overdue, which was not a big surprise to her since she always went beyond her due date. Sheryl kept thinking she was going to go early, what with all the stress. When she finally did go into labor, Leo Thomas did not want to come right away, so her mind started to play tricks on her.
 Questions like, What if the cord wraps around his neck, and we can¹t get him out in time?  What if he loses his heartbeat? and What if he does not have enough oxygen? entered her mind.
 I think all moms have these fears at the end, but for me, I needed to hold this baby so badly and look him over. I was getting pretty impatient,² she said. Newest addition brings joy.
 On March 5 all their prayers were answered when they held their newborn son in their arms and he was perfect.   
 Their four children, Colton, Jeron, Kendra and Sam love the newest edition to the family.
 Sam cannot keep his hands off of him. He is holding him every chance he can, and when I am feeding Leo, Sam is right there holding his hand or stroking his head, like he¹s petting him. And he's adamant about calling him Tommy. Kendra adores him, and she is a big helper. Jeron loves to give him the pacifier every chance he can. Colton and Sam both are the take charge types, and they  want to be involved with his cares, said Sheryl.
 My heart cannot contain all the joy I have for this little guy and all the love that his birth has brought to our family, said Sheryl.
 The Brauns took a gamble on a fluke called EB. They won this time.
 When I think of Logan, I feel like crying. I think of the pain he endured, the love he had shown to us and the kindnesses of strangers and the support of neighbors, she said.
 A year after Logan¹s death Sheryl's heart fills with sadness and tears well up in her eyes every time she thinks of him.  
  But then I look at baby Leo and the joy comes forward, the love returns and the happiness takes over at having another child. Leo makes it all worthwhile, she said, admitting it still hurts when she sees a child who would be Logan¹s age. She forgets the suffering and thinks of where Logan would have been at that age and what she would have been doing.
 And she thinks of little Leo, who is a night owl, keeping her awake at odd hours of the night, but I¹m just enjoying him so much right now.
I thank God every moment I look at Leo, said Sheryl, for the precious gift he gave us.

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