Shared by his dad, Bruce Bradford
In 2012, at the age of 24, my baby boy Benjamin lost his life and saved mine.
These are words no father should have to even imagine. This is the truth our family has to face every day for the rest of our lives. We are raising money and awareness to try and ensure that no other family will have to endure the kind of unspeakable loss that wounded our family.
On July 19, 2012, our lives changed forever. Benjamin rarely complained about pain. Around 9 pm that night, Ben complained of abdominal pain, severe enough that he wanted to get it checked out. A gall bladder issue was suspected and a follow-up test was scheduled. Ben’s pain worsened through the night and his mother and I told him to have his roommates get him to the hospital ASAP.
His mother Carol met him at the hospital as I stayed with the younger boys. The pain got worse and worse without explanation. A brave mother by his side, Dad at work with no idea what was about to strike. The doors of the family business were locked and I headed to the hospital in a fog, trying to make sense of the words ‘cardiac arrest’ applied to Ben.
By the time I reached the hospital, the emergency was apparently behind us.The doctors said Ben was stable, and gall bladder surgery would be scheduled when he got a little stronger. I left the hospital to pick up Ben’s youngest brother.
In less than an hour, I was called back to the hospital, and by 4pm, our precious Benjamin had left us.
The cardiologist approached me and said something I will never forget, “Mr. Bradford, I cannot explain what just happened. If I were you, I would have an autopsy done”. In shock, I filled out the necessary papers to send our baby’s body to the Harris County Medical Examiner.
The coming days came with a whirlwind of information: we were introduced to the term aortic dissection. From: no physical explanation, to: it must be genetic. Then to: have you heard of the John Ritter Research Program (JRRP)?
Little by little we pieced information together. JRRP helped us identify the genetic mutation that Ben had, and that led to his aortic dissection. The whole family was tested and nobody else had the mutation.
Nonetheless, the family underwent imaging to detect any aortic disease. My two other boys were found to be physically ok. Mom was physically ok.
I, on the other hand, was found to have an aortic aneurysm. The lack of symptoms meant that had my aorta not been imaged as a result of my boy’s death, I would have eventually suffered an aortic dissection. With the sacrifice of his life, my boy alerted the doctors to my condition and saved my life. I am now under the care of the JRRP cardiologist.
The truth is, had Ben been diagnosed in time, he would have had a fighting chance to stay with us.
In his memory, we support the mission of the JRRP. The John Ritter Research Program in Aortic and Vascular Diseases (JRRP) works to prevent premature deaths due to thoracic aortic disease by improving diagnosis, treatment, and public awareness of this disease. The JRRP is led by Dianna M. Milewicz, MD, PhD, who with her team discovered four of the genes that are now known to cause a predisposition for thoracic aortic aneurysms and dissections that are inherited in families. In addition, the team has identified genetic factors that predispose individuals to thoracic aortic aneurysms and dissections when there is no family history of the disease.
We need your support to be successful in the effort to help the yet-to-be-identified Benjamins and their families. Please join us in this quest to honor Benjamin’s life and his death. It is my hope that no other father, and no other family will have their heart broken and suffer the loss we did.