I-S middle school student overcomes disability
By Holly Neumann
When Jessica Deisinger learned she was pregnant, she anxiously awaited her son’s birth.
She quickly realized her pregnancy was far from normal.
“I was sick throughout the entire pregnancy and I noticed very little fetal movement,” she said. “After several complaints of him not moving, we had a stress test and though movements were very weak, I was assured he was OK.”
Her son, Austin Broker, was born at ThedaCare Medical Center-Waupaca with Prader-Willi Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that happens to 1 in approximately 15,000 children.
“They pulled out several pieces of paper and showed his genetic reading and began to explain that they have no idea why the fluke happens,” Jessica said. “The deletion happens on chromosome 15 on the father’s side and they haven’t figured out why.”
The lifelong disability causes its victims to have no muscle tone.
“After I processed the information, I went back into the NICU and looked at this little boy with red hair and blue eyes and knew he was a fighter, a survivor, a miracle,” Jessica said.
Fast-forward 13 years and Austin is in the middle of his first season with Iola-Scandinavia’s middle school cross country team.
“He showed up to the first practice not knowing a single soul or the environment and he ran, he ran his little heart out,” Jessica said.
She wasn’t sure if Austin would want to go back.
“He informed me he was going to practice and that he loved to run,” she said
“It appears that he enjoys being part of the team,” coach Tom Anderson said. “After we had some hard practices at the beginning of the season, I would wonder if he would want to make practice the next day. He made all our summer practices with a smile on his face.”
It didn’t take long before Austin’s teammates noticed him and began to cheer him on.
“The kids have been very receptive to Austin from the first day of practice,” Anderson said. “I give them a lot of credit for making Austin feel part of the team. They talk and joke with him and they continually help and encourage him.”
A rough start
Doctors induced labor on April 2, 2002, and an ultrasound revealed Jessica’s body stopped feeding Austin and that her placenta had started to detach.
The induction proved to be too much for mother and child.
“Austin’s little heart couldn’t handle the stress and my body could no longer handle the labor,” Jessica said. “His heart rate flatlined and I passed out.”
She recalled waking up in surgery as doctors performed an emergency C-section.
“They removed him, announced it was a little boy, let me take a small peek at him and then rushed him into a side room and began to resuscitate him,” she said. “He flatlined three more times before they could intubate him and start breathing for him.”
After Austin became stabilized, he was flown on a Flight for Life helicopter to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Theda Clark Medical Center in Neenah.
Due to lack of muscle tone, Austin was unable to breast feed and had to be placed on a feeding tube.
He was able to come home at the end of April 2002 and immediately began physical, occupational and speech therapy.
“When therapy wasn’t in our home, I spent hours working his muscles, doing baby massage and range of motion,” Jessica said. “Every time I would tube-feed him, I would put a pacifier in his mouth with hopes it would stimulate him to suckle and to my surprise, it finally did.”
Ten months after getting his feeding tube, Austin hit his first milestone of having enough strength to drink from a bottle and not aspirate the contents.
At the age of 1, he learned to log roll all over the house, by age 2 he had developed the strength to crawl, at 3 1/2 he was taking a few steps with the aid of a walker and by age 4 he was cruising around school with it.
First meet jitters
Austin became nervous as his first cross country meet approached.
“Without hesitation, coach Anderson had it under control and had a person following him on bike while he helped lead him in getting to the finish line,” Jessica said. “Coach has been more then patient with helping him be successful. He welcomed him to the team with every ounce of confidence that he could make it work.”
And work it has. Austin now has several meets under his belt.
“His first and second meets he came in last place, but he finished,” Jessica said. “Austin put more effort into his running the third meet. He was so excited to pass other children, but before he would pass, he would ask to make sure it was OK.”
Never in Jessica’s wildest dreams did she ever think her son would run.
“He has always loved sports of every type,” she said. “He has always been in a body that hasn’t allowed much. His love for running started in gym class and carried over to after-school running.”
Wanting to give Austin a semi-normal life, Jessica and her husband Josh made the decision to move from Stevens Point to Iola.
“After researching the top schools in the state and seeing that Iola-Scandinavia was ranked quite high on the list, we decided to move here,” she said.
The family had concerns with no cognitive delay programs in place at the school district.
“We were so afraid that Iola-Scandinavia wouldn’t be able to accommodate him, but after meeting with those in charge of the special education program, they made several changes and are working to accommodate Austin into the school program,” Jessica said.
She admitted she was not sure Austin would finish the season.
“I should know by now that my child by nature is a fighter,” she said. “He won’t be held down by a disability. He’s my hero.”
Austin’s teammates have made an impact on her son that Jessica feared would never happen.
“These children are amazing,” she said. “The amount of encouragement, the compassion and the time they take to help him, to teach him and to understand him has been above and beyond.
“He has been accepted,” she added. “What a special bond.”