January 19, 2001

Today's Look:  North Aurora Twins with Cerebral palsy are making progress with experimental treatments.  Now if only their insurance would pay for them.


Bob Gerrard - Chronicle photo staff                                

Kerri Branson of North Aurora plays with her 3-year-old son, Luke, after a physical therapy session in their living room on Thursday.  Luke and his twin brother, Zach suffer from cerebral palsy.  Five days a week, the boys sit in a special metal chamber at an alternative clinic in Arlington Heights, breathing in pure oxygen.  Kerri thinks the treatments - coupled with intensive therapy - are behind the miraculous progress Luke and Zach have made in the last few weeks.

Fighting for her sons

Concert fund-raiser to be held in Batavia on Saturday.

Kane County Chronicle

NORTH AURORA Kerri Branson is a mother and a fighter.
The North Aurora resident portrays Sonya Blade for Midway Home Entertainment's popular video game, Mortal Kombat. Game creators modeled the character's appearance after her for the video game and comic books.
Sonya Blade's battles are pure fantasy, but Branson's fight for two of her children is very real.
Her 5-year-old twins, Luke and Zach, have severe cerebral palsy. The condition was caused by the lack of oxygen shortly before their premature birth. The boys have considerable brain damage, and both are severely impaired in their ability to move and speak.
During the last three years, the boys have sat inside a special oxygen tank 165 times. They breathe pure oxygen, which doctors said repairs some of the brain damage.
Doctors claim that exposing cerebral palsy patients to pure oxygen for prolonged periods inspires dormant brain cells to become active. The process is called hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
"I haven't regretted a single treatment," Kerri said. "Nothing but good has come out of it."
Kerri and her husband, Scott Branson, said the therapy performs miracles. The boys can eat, sleep and move better than they did before the treatment. Although they cannot walk, Luke and Zach can peddle a special bicycle.
And two years ago came a miracle: Zach drank a glass of juice for the first time.

"It's amazing," Kerri marveled, as three therapists worked with her sons that day in the family's living room.
"I'm not doing anything this is all him," therapist Barb Buckham told Kerri that day, pointing out that Zach could now lick a lollipop with minimal help.
Two years later, the treatments still help.
One thing has changed, though. Those oxygen treatments used to be very expensive. Insurance previously did not pay for the sessions because they were experimental.
Kerri won that battle. She faxed the insurance company records and reports showing the advances the boys had made after treatments.
Insurance adjusters changed their coverage.
"They pay for it now," Kerri said, smiling. "After we had 80 treatments under our belts, I faxed them a 20-page letter. I showed the company all the good that has happened, how much money they saved by us not having to go to the hospital. I won that battle."
That was when the Bransons visited a doctor's office in Arlington Heights. The boys did not tolerate the treatment well, so the Bransons sought a new clinic with better equipment.
"They used to cry the whole time," Kerri said. "They were very frightened of the big metal tank."
Now they travel to a clinic in Naples, Fla., that has better equipment. The tanks are built so Kerri can sit inside them with her boys.
"It's just like laying down in bed and watching TV with my boys," she said.
The Bransons considered moving to Florida to cut the cost of treatment, but they said they could not leave their friends and family.
"We need a lot of help, and we have a lot of help," Kerri said.
"It's teamwork," Scott said.
Insurance covers the cost of treatment, but it does not cover travel, food and lodging. That prompted the Bransons to host a fund-raiser.
The event is from 2 to 10 p.m. April 12 at the Eastside Community Center in Batavia. The event features live bands, food, raffles and an auction. The cost is $10 for adults and $5 for children.
Two years ago, the Bransons hosted a similar event.
"It's hard asking people for money," Scott said. "I have a hard time with it."
Kathy Freedlund of Batavia, a family friend and a former neighbor, has helped organize the fund-raisers.
"People really like to rally around people who need help," Freedlund said. "I can't believe the outpouring of donations. That's how I know why I live here. I was born and raised here, and this is a great place to raise a family."
The Bransons have been in Naples all week for a series of treatments before the fund-raiser.
On Thursday, there was another miracle.
Zach said, "I love you," to his mother for the first time while sitting inside the oxygen chamber.
"He said it three times," Freedlund said. "The boys don't say anything, really. They say 'hi' sometimes. And he said it three times. That's really cool. Kerri said it was totally worth the trip to Florida."


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Revised: September 16, 2009