For Brayden Sharp, the sky’s the limit. His mother, Katie, describes Brayden as exceptionally determined. Since he was a baby, he’s been exceeding every medical expectation.
Brayden was born on September 3, 2019, in Lexington, Kentucky. Three weeks later, he was diagnosed with profound bilateral hearing loss. Katie vividly remembers that day in the NICU. When the audiologist walked into the room, she was upbeat and friendly, but her smile gradually faded as she conducted Brayden’s tests. Katie’s husband, Jeremy, was Googling what the test results meant as they appeared. Before the tests were halfway over, Katie could piece together the diagnosis based on their faces.
Brayden proceeded to spend the next few months in and out of the hospital. He also has complex GI issues, and when he was three months old, his hospital in Lexington reached the end of their capacity to assist him. He was then sent to Cincinnati Children’s the day after Christmas 2019. Brayden was admitted to Children’s for a month and a half during his first stay and for three months during his second. Throughout that time, Katie and Jeremy met numerous medical professionals. A few of them mentioned Ohio Valley Voices, which soon led to a phone call with OVV’s Executive Director, Maria Sentelik. Maria told Katie that if she moved to Cincinnati, there would be a spot for Brayden at OVV.
It’s been over two years since that initial conversation between Katie and Maria, and Brayden is as happy and determined as ever. He just graduated from the Toddler Program and will be starting in OVV’s Preschool Program, or Discovery Center, this month. Some of Brayden’s favorite Toddler Program activities included sweeping and vacuuming, washing the windows, and cutting vegetables. He also adored spending time with his classmates, especially Audie, Crew, and Landon. By the end of the year, every morning and afternoon, he would tell his mom which car was Audie’s car and wave “Bye Audie!”
Katie raves about Brayden’s fantastic OVV teachers. She describes how Alysia and Breanna always brought a smile to his face in the Toddler Program and how Katie Krekeler, his Spoken Language Provider (LSLP), had so much patience for Brayden despite his hesitation at the beginning of the year. As the months went by, she was even getting him to laugh as he said goodbye to her after circle time!
During his time in the Toddler Program, Brayden also developed a special relationship with OVV’s Family Center Coordinator, Leslie Raulie. Katie says Leslie went above and beyond for Brayden from the moment he entered OVV’s doors. She advocated for him due to his cerebral palsy and was always willing to make adjustments based on his complex GI needs. Brayden truly loved being around her. He would spend lots of time throughout the day trying to make her smile however he could. “Leslie has supported Brayden and our family in more ways than we can count!” Katie says. (To read more about Leslie, check out this month’s Staff Spotlight.)
The support that Brayden’s family has experienced at OVV doesn’t stop there. Katie explains how OVV has taken much of the weight of Brayden’s hearing loss off their shoulders. “The staff and families of OVV are like one big family—rooting and cheering each other on for each milestone or letting you know that they’re there for you when times are challenging or uncertain,” she explains. Every OVV staff member and parent has so much passion, patience, and love for Brayden, and it shows.
Katie says that OVV has also been helpful in encouraging Brayden’s speech development at home. The Toddler Program staff provided themed activities and phrases for the parents to use at home, and Katie Krekeler kept Brayden’s parents informed on current words and areas of focus that he learned in class. “We have tried to act like sports commentators since he first got his hearing aids and even more so after he received his cochlear implants,” Katie Sharp says. “We read books throughout the day and at least two books before bed every night. We try to minimize background noise so that he can hear us clearly and we can hear him.”
When not reading and practicing speech with his parents, Brayden is busy doing the many things he loves. These include swimming, going down slides, cooking pizza, cutting flowers with “Mama.” playing guitar with “Dada,” and spending time with his fur brother, Zuki.
When asked how OVV has impacted her family, Katie doesn’t know where to begin. “They have given me and our family confidence to advocate for our son no matter how big or small the hurdle,” she says. “OVV has shown us that with the right support and plan, anything is possible for Brayden.”