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Brandon Foundation Angel Program lives up to its name

Hannah Brannan, an attorney, has recovered from her stroke in October 2009 and went back to work in April.

Special to the Times

Hannah Brannan, an attorney, has recovered from her stroke in October 2009 and went back to work in April.

Cynthia Alloway says it's a story that captures both the amazing grace of God and our caring community, especially the Brandon Foundation Angel Program.

Seldom does a debilitating setback yield such praise, but the story Alloway shares about her daughter Hannah Brannan in a series of journal entries is far from ordinary.

On Oct. 28, 2009, as Alloway drove to her Valrico home after a 12-hour work day, she got a call that would change her life. Hannah, her then-27-year-old daughter, had been found unconscious and was being treated at Countryside Hospital in Clearwater.

Alloway thought she was dreaming.

"Hannah had just finished law school in August, passed the bar exam in September," Alloway said. "She had been admitted to the Florida Bar just two weeks ago, and was beginning her job with the public defender's office."

When Alloway arrived at the hospital, she discovered Hannah had suffered a massive stroke. Alloway learned the next day that doctors wanted to perform a craniectomy, removing the right side of Hannah's skull and implanting it in her stomach, where it would remain free from bacteria. Doctors would reattach it when the swelling subsided.

They told Alloway it was her daughter's only chance of surviving.

In the days that followed, she began to understand all the emotions she had seen other mothers endure as their child's life hung in the balance.

"I never knew what it was like to listen for every breath, hang onto every word, and constantly be drawn to myriad monitors and special equipment that beeps and bleeps the vital information that tells you if everything is normal or not," Alloway wrote. "It's hypnotizing and heart wrenching."

The entry for Halloween 2009 stands out in the journal. Doctors inserted a feeding tube because Hannah failed a swallow test. Yet she was able to talk and asked if she would be in a wheelchair, and Alloway teared up.

But Hannah also had good news.

"She said, 'Mom, Jesus came to my room.' I said, 'Jesus came?' She said, 'Yes, Jesus was here.' I asked her if she talked to Him. She said, 'Yes, He hugged me tight and told me I was going to be okay.' She said, 'Mom, doesn't that make you happy that Jesus came to see me?'

"I wept as I could feel the presence of the living God in that room."

In November 2009, Alloway returned to running her company, Common Sense Business Solutions, but not without a heavy heart. She wanted to be there for all of Hannah's physical therapy sessions, but she also had to provide for her family.

In the days and weeks that followed, Hannah's valiant effort to recover affected the extended family. Life changed for Alloway, her husband Doug and their two teen children, Benjamin and Bernadette. The same could be said for Hannah's husband Robert and their two children, Samantha and Eric.

Keeping two families going while helping Hannah get through therapy proved to be taxing for all, but Alloway speaks glowingly of the help she received from the Greater Brandon Community Foundation's Angel Program.

When Hannah received a day pass to come home for Thanksgiving Day, the program provided two cooked turkeys for the family. When she went through brain surgery to have her skull reattached in January, the foundation angels called and provided nightly meals for the family for a month. They helped Hannah and Robert with rent and security deposits so they could move from Dunedin to Valrico, where Hannah stayed with her parents during the week. They also provided Cynthia and Doug with gift certificates and tickets to the state fair, so they could enjoy a night out.

They sent crews to mow and trim the Alloways' lawn, and Alloway notes that some "brave men" from the foundation even helped 16-year-old Bernadette with driving lessons.

"It has been a blessing to see how God has stirred the hearts of our community, our family, our friends to be our good Samaritans," Alloway wrote in the journal. "We may feel like we've beaten up, but we have not felt abandoned."

Through months of prayer, love and therapy, Hannah persevered. She returned to work at the public defender's office April 3 wearing a red jacket and the biggest smile you've ever seen.

On Nov. 12, the foundation presents its annual Evening of Hope at Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon. Tickets are $25 and proceeds benefit the foundation's Angel Program. For more information, call (813) 299-6745.

If you want to read about more helpful people and happy endings, lend a hand to this worthy event. That's all I'm saying.

.Fast facts

Stroke warning signs

Cynthia Alloway and Hannah Brannan believe if Hannah had been more aware of the symptoms associated with strokes, she could have sought medical attention sooner and created a better outcome. Hannah experienced confusion, clumsiness on her left side and a sudden onset of headaches.

According to the American Heart Association, these are the warning signs of a stroke:

• Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body.

• Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding.

• Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.

• Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.

• Sudden severe headache with no known cause.

Brandon Foundation Angel Program lives up to its name 11/04/10 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 5:49pm]
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