CLEARFIELD – He was hooked up to machines in the intensive care unit. Parents, Matt and Annie Hinton, of Fairfield, CT, looked over their toddler, Brady. He smiled.
“He always smiled. It lit up any room,” Annie said. “His smile went ear to ear and was so big. It consumed him. You couldn’t help but smile back. It was just special.”
From birth, Brady experienced difficulties in every major system of his body. His brain. His eyes. His heart. His stomach. His kidneys.
“We didn‘t know exactly what was wrong. That was our biggest battle,“ Annie said. “There were so many things.”
She said Brady’s overall condition was never determined and went undiagnosed.
Her son underwent open heart surgery to mend two holes in his heart at six months old. He was also fed by a gastrostomy tube through the skin and stomach wall, directly into the stomach.
According to Annie, Brady was in and out of hospitals during his short life.
“He spent two weeks here and there but about six months of his life in an intensive care unit,” she said.
Through his journey, Brady wore his smile, regardless the battle.
“He smiled no matter what. His smile showed courage and gave us hope. It was his way of telling us, ‘it’s going to be OK,’” Annie said. “He made us forget about it all. You just had to smile and laugh with him.”
His smile also affected the medical staff around him.
“They’d come up and say, ‘you have quite the kid here. He’s quite the fighter,’” she said. “We knew whatever the battle he could do it.”
She said Brady’s most recent battle came, when he was placed on dialysis after a failed kidney transplant.
He went to sleep in his home on March 16 – his second birthday- and “woke up in heaven.”
“He fought through so many battles, and it was really unexpected. But there is only so much a little body can take,” Annie said.
About a week later, Matt and Annie began organizing Brady’s Smile, Inc., a children’s based charitable organization.
The couple found inspiration from their son, as well as the other families, children and medical staff through their two-year journey.
“We were introduced to a medical world and never knew it existed. We saw others who shared our battle,” she said.
She said a hospital volunteer brought them a care bag, while the two were with Brady in a critical state at the children’s hospital in Pittsburgh.
A Sudoku puzzle book, toothpaste and gum were among the items inside the bag.
“It’s the little, simple things that help,” Annie said. “It offers comfort and makes you feel better.”
She said the gesture touched them and provided additional inspiration and an idea for their organization. Their vision is to supplement services at pediatric hospitals between Connecticut and Pennsylvania.
“Hospitals focus on patients around the clock. We want to help them provide services the staff can’t focus on,” she said.
“We want to touch others and provide a soothing environment. We want families to feel at ease and offer a sigh of relief even if it’s for one moment, minute or hour.”
But Matt and Annie not only want to provide comfort to the parents but the children as well. They would like to work with hospitals to make music available for the young patients.
Annie said music played a major role in Brady’s life and always brought a smile to his face.
“The children hear machines beeping in the ICU and still hear it, when they are asleep. We want to help soothe the children with the option of music at night, during a nap or really anytime,” she said.
The couple wants families and children to feel comfort from someone who has been through the same struggles. Most importantly, they want to honor Brady’s memory and make them smile.
“He taught us to embrace life. We chose to celebrate life with him,” she said. “We celebrated him no matter how big or small the moments were.”
Matt and Annie hope to encourage others to do the same through Brady’s Smile Inc.
“If we touch one person, we’ve been successful. But we’re hoping to touch a lot more,” she said. “We want to touch lives the way we’ve been touched.”
Annie (Flegal) Hinton, who is a native of Clearfield, has a local fund raiser in the works for the fall.