'Team Brenley Bear' raises money for heart disease

Baby Brenley (Source: Brenley's family)
Baby Brenley (Source: Brenley's family)
Baby Brenley (Source: Brenley's family)
Baby Brenley (Source: Brenley's family)

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – Heart disease affects thousands of Americans every year. For baby Brenley Rabon, that was the case only hours after she was born last March.

Doctors at Conway Medical Center found a life threatening problem with her heart. Today, Brenley's parents say new medical technology helped keep their baby girl alive.

"Very hard, didn't feel real," is how Brenley's mother Jodi Gulledge described the first few months of her newborn's life. The reality was, Brenley's heart had two main arteries reversed.

"She was very, very sick. She had a breathing tube," says Gulledge.

Jodi watched her baby girl as she spent the next three months in critical care in the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.

"Just going in there and seeing your child with her chest open. It's just stuff you don't ever want to see," Gulledge admits.

Brenley suffered a stroked and underwent two open-heart surgeries. At seven months old, Brenley is healthier and now home in Myrtle Beach.

"They saved my baby's life. Fifteen years ago, she probably wouldn't have made it," cries Gulledge.

Gulledge says it wasn't just the doctors and nurses that saved her daughter's life. It's also new technology and procedures that wouldn't be possible without research.

This is what inspired 'Team Brenley Bear.' The team is one of more than 150 teams raising money for the Waccamaw Area Heart Walk this Saturday.

Money raised at the event goes to area hospitals to fund heart disease and stroke research.

'Team Brenley Bear' is getting extra help from abroad. Brenley's father Mark Rabon is serving with the United States Army overseas.

"I told him about the heart walk here. And he said I wish I could be there to walk. And I said why don't you have a walk there?" comments Gulledge.

Mark sprung right into action. Wednesday morning, Rabon held a heart walk at Camp Virginia in Kuwait

"It was pretty awesome, to know that even though I'm so far away and disconnected from my family, I can still do something," says Rabon.

Rabon says almost everyone at his camp joined in the three mile walk and help to raise money for 'Team Brenley Bear.'

Brenley's parents say she will be one of many heart survivors at the Waccamaw Area Heart Walk this Saturday.

To get involved, visit their website to learn how you can help raise money for the America Heart Association.

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