Kennewick family's prayers answered for boy who had brain surgery

By Geoff Folsom, Tri-City HeraldNovember 27, 2013 

Patrick Murphy Tricycle

Patrick Murphy can now ride a triciycle in the driveway of his Kennewick with a little help to reach the pedals from his mother, Suzie Murphy. The youngster is making great strides in recovering from brain surgery in 2011.

BOB BRAWDY — Tri-City Herald Buy Photo

When Patrick Murphy's mother asked him to come inside on a recent cold afternoon, the smiling, energetic 3-year-old said he wanted to keep playing.

It is impossible to tell the Kennewick boy had surgery to remove part of his brain more than two years ago, when he was 11 months old.

"We didn't know if he would ever have a normal life," said his mother, Suzie Murphy. "He had difficulty eating and swallowing. He couldn't hold his head up. He couldn't hold his body up."

The family has much to be grateful for this Thanksgiving, Murphy said.

Their son's health. Their faith. The generosity of neighbors and strangers.

"We are ever so grateful that God allowed us to be brought to the point of pure desolation, only to revel in the marvel of his healing power. Everywhere we went people said that they would pray for Patrick, and they did. Quite often, these prayers are not answered in a physical healing that we can actually see. However, in Patrick's case, they truly have been," his mother said.

Patrick's thinking skills were at the level of a 16-day-old baby prior to his surgery, and doctors weren't sure the surgery would even work.

Today, the boy who had to have therapy to learn to swallow baby food, eats corn on the cob and steak. ("Delicious" was one of his first words, his mother said). His motor skills, which once lagged well behind kids his age, have improved and he can now put together puzzles and string beads.

He plays catch and soccer and enjoys looking at books, his mother said.

"He has a pretty good arm," she said.

Patrick had hundreds of brain spasms a day before the surgery, the result of a birth defect called cortical dysplasia. But he hasn't had any seizures since the surgery in August 2011 at Seattle Children's Hospital.

Suzie Murphy and her husband Shawn decided to have the four-hour procedure at Seattle Children's after they were unable to raise enough money to have the surgery performed by a specialist in Arizona.

The Herald wrote about the family in July 2011 when they were seeking donations to pay for the delicate and expensive surgery out of state.

The couple now say going to Seattle Children's and having the surgery performed by neurosurgeon Dr. Jeffrey Ojemann was the best thing to happen to Patrick.

"They said if he's seizure free for a year, break out the beer; two years break out the wine," Suzie Murphy said. "Three years, break out the Champagne."

They haven't quite popped the last cork, but Suzie Murphy said Ojemann told the family in June that Patrick was doing so well that he wouldn't need to see him for a year-and-a-half.

She also credits the early intervention therapy Patrick did for nearly two years after the surgery for his improvement.

"The therapists were so excited to see him every week," she said. "He was just making such rapid progress. It was astounding. His language just exploded."

The community rallied around the family in the days leading up to the surgery and after.

People brought the family library books, cooked meals, cleaned their yard and watched their other four children. Benefit dinners and other fundraisers also were organized to help them pay for travel expenses and housing during his medical trips.

They are also thankful for the prayers they received, particularly from fellow parishioners at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Kennewick.

"The other day we were at church and this lady heard him singing The Lamb of God," Suzie Murphy said. "And the lady said, 'That just brought tears to my eyes because I fasted and prayed for him.' "

Patrick's family also prayed for him.

"I didn't want him to die, so I really prayed hard," said his sister, Caitlin, 10.

Brother Daniel had to leave the house while Patrick was sick. The family was quarantined to prevent illness from spreading.

Daniel, 11, was coughing and stayed with his father's parents for 10 weeks, even celebrating one of his birthdays with his parents on the other side of a window.

"If (Patrick) caught a cold, he would die," Murphy said.

But Daniel didn't mind.

"He's my little brother," he said. "After all these sisters, I was fine with him no matter what he looked like."

In addition to Caitlin, there are sisters Sarah, 8, and Elizabeth, 6.

And the Murphys recently added another child to the family; Nicholas was born six months ago.

The Murphys are "open to life," Suzie Murphy said.

"I wouldn't consider having a child with a disability as a reason not to be open to having more children," she said.

-- Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543;; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom

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