Three mothers, friends since grade school, are bonded by heart-wrenching happenings in the lives of their children and their loyalty to the institution where they were treated, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin
Three friends, who have known each other since first grade, have laughed and cried together, sharing each other’s joys and sorrows.
They also comforted each other when their children were treated at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin in Wauwatosa and now help raise money for the hospital.
This will be the fifth year they will answer phones for Dave & Carole’s Miracle Marathon for Children’s Hospital on WKLH radio. It’s their way of thanking the hospital for the care their children received.
“They asked if they could interview us, but we knew we would just blubber,” said Bonnie Gramlow, whose son Brett, now 12, was rushed to Children’s Hospital with severe burns when he was 14 months old and ran into a hot grill at a family picnic.
“It makes us realize how fortunate we are to have children as healthy as they are,” added Lonnie Weyker. Her son Noah was diagnosed with a brain tumor five years ago and had two brain surgeries at Children’s Hospital.
It was Noah’s long stays in the hospital and the support she, her husband and their other children received that prompted Weyker to volunteer for the fund-raiser and ask her friends to join her.
At the time, Noah’s cousin Clayton Ebersold of Fredonia was a healthy, energetic boy who loved to read and play games.
But on Jan. 13, 2007, 9-year-old Clayton was fatally injured when he was struck by a car while crossing a busy road in front of his father’s repair shop. He had gone to the roadside mailbox because he was expecting a new book and PlayStation game.
“He had the mail in his hand. We don’t know if he walked in front of the car or what,” his mother Cheryl said.
Clayton was taken to Children’s Hospital, but never regained consciousness and died the next day. His parents donated their son’s kidneys, liver and pancreas.
When Ebersold went to the telethon that year, it was difficult to walk through the doors.
“The last time I walked through those doors, my son was alive,” she remembers thinking as she stood glued to the spot, unable to take another step.
“The others could see I was having a hard time. They took my arms and said, “We’ll get you through this,” Ebersold said.
“That’s what we do. We hold each other up. There are times we’re all crying together, but more times we’re laughing together. Without my friends and family, I don’t know where I would be.
“You don’t want to move on, but you have to, and they help me do that.”
On Mother’s Day, Ebersold will hug her 9-year-old daughter Cayleigh extra hard and the family will talk about Clayton and his love for books and games.
“We talk about him every day and we have a book drive every year at Ozaukee Middle School,” Ebersold said.
The books go to a school district in a poverty-stricken area.
Weyker, of the Town of Belgium, and Gramlow, who lives in the Town of Holland, are fortunate. Their sons have scars from their experiences, but they can give their mothers big hugs on Mother’s Day.
Noah, who will turn 11 on May 17, woke up one morning five years ago with a seizure. He was taken to Children’s Hospital for tests that revealed a tumor in the area of the brain that controls motor skills.
“We were told if they removed the entire tumor, he would be paralyzed. ‘You have to let us know how aggressive you want us to be,’ they said,” his mother, who is a nurse at Columbia St. Mary’s Ozaukee Hospital in Mequon, said.
“My knees went weak. We said, ‘Take out as much as you can, but leave that area intact so he can be a little boy.’”
When Noah returned to his kindergarten classroom at Cedar Grove-Belgium Elementary School, the other students wore bandanas similar to the one he wore to cover the scar on his shaved head.
Noah continued to have seizures, as many as 10 a day. His epilepsy did not respond to medications, so his doctor recommended surgery.
Weyker initially fought the surgery, but finally gave in. Noah’s second operation was in March 2006.
“He’s been seizure-free ever since,” Weyker said. “He’s still on seizure medication and his right side is a little weaker than his left, but nothing like it was before.
“His last scan in January showed the brain tumor has not changed.”
If the tumor grows, Weyker is hopeful there will be a new procedure that can remove or control it. Children’s Hospital is likely to be among the first to have it, Weyker said.
Gramlow still remembers her son’s screams when he ran into the grill, burning his right thigh and hand.
“I sat with him in the lake, then we went to the West Bend hospital. They sent us to Children’s,” Gramlow said.
There, his burns were treated and dressings were applied that had to changed every day for two weeks. The burns healed, but Brett still has a scar on his thigh.
Gramlow doesn’t want to think about what could have happened if Brett had pulled the grill down on top of himself. Her father had put the grill in an area where he thought the children wouldn’t go.
“Here we are, three moms who have known each other for three decades and all three of us have needed Children’s Hospital at different stages of our lives,” Weyker said. “It’s such a good feeling knowing this hospital is there.”
“You hear the stories from the kids who come back to say they’re going to be a nurse or a doctor because of their or a sibling experience at Children’s,” Ebersold said.
Gramlow added, “You never know when you’re going to need it. A split second and your life changes.”
The women will answer phones from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Thursday, May 27. The telethon runs from Wednesday, May 26, through Friday, May 28.
(From left, front row) Cheryl Ebersold held a photo of her son Clayton, who died in 2007 after being hit by a car; Noah Weyker, who had two brain surgeries, in front of his mother Lonnie; Brett Gramlow, who was burned when he was 14 months old and ran into a hot grill, in front of his mother Bonnie.