A sick toddler’s blog touches lives

A sick toddler’s blog touches lives

By DEBRA SKODACK
The Kansas City Star

BOLIVAR, Mo. | Granton Bayless scoots across the living room couch. When he nears the cushion’s edge, an adult gently intercepts him and holds him in her arms.

He squirms with enough energy that he gets his wish. Back on the couch. More scooting.

Granton’s life is as preciously carefree as any 14-month-old child’s. It’s about drooling through his musical Thomas the Tank Engine book. It’s about nibbling on bits of his mom’s quiche for the first time. It’s about a reassuring “you’re OK” when he takes a tumble while trying to walk.

But this toddler’s everyday moments are miracles — for Granton and for the people across the country who turn on their computers each day and click on his blog, hoping to see what they have been praying for since he became gravely ill last spring.

An anonymous reader wrote Dec. 10:

Thank you so much for the pictures. Such a blessing to see the little guy being all boy and not connected to all of those life lines (Thanking God for them, though). Christmas Blessings for you all. Continuing to pray in Kansas!

Granton’s blog is part of a trend of using the Web to endure and even thrive in difficult times, whether the subject is a health issue or a child fighting in Iraq, said Wendy Cadge, an assistant professor of sociology who specializes in religion and culture at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass.

“It gives people a feeling of connection, of hope, of something bigger,” Cadge said. “In times like these, it helps to have something hopeful to look to.”

Since Granton’s blog was started in April, people have clicked on it more than 371,000 times.

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Granton was born with severe combined immunodeficiency, or “bubble boy” disease, which prevented his body from producing enough T cells to fight off disease. He received an umbilical cord blood transplant and is well enough now to be home in Bolivar, Mo.

But when he was admitted to Children’s Mercy Hospital in late March, his tiny body was so weak that doctors gave his parents, Daniel and Jenni Bayless, little hope their only child would survive.

Granton was fighting for his life far from home, leaving friends and family anxious for updates, especially the ones that said the baby had made it through another night. After about two weeks at the hospital, a friend offered to develop a blog for Daniel and Jenni Bayless.

“I had never, ever been on a blog before,” said Daniel, a high school teacher and coach.

Coming from a large family that includes six siblings and extends through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Iowa, he quickly learned the blog’s benefits.

“You know, a doctor tells you that there is not enough oxygen in your son’s body, you get hit with a ton of bricks,” Daniel said. “You man up, you swallow it up, and then you have to call your parents, your grandparents, and tell them, and they get hit with a ton of bricks. You try to be strong for everyone.

“When we posted, we didn’t have to go through that. Explaining it on the blog was almost therapeutic.”

•••

All of us at Stockton (Mo.) are thinking of you and praying for you. Our hearts ache when we think of precious little Granton having to endure so much. How wonderful that you know the creator personally who has promised never to leave us or forsake us. — Rebecca Leenerts, April 9

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In her 13 years as a nurse in the pediatric intensive care unit at Children’s Mercy, Kim Palmer has seen how great a blog can be for parents of seriously ill children. One post can answer a stack of phone messages from family and friends.

And the posts and comments provide a much needed connection in the isolated world of intensive care. Palmer has seen that in many parents, including the Baylesses.

“They will read a comment and it helps lift their spirits because they knew people were praying for them,” Palmer said. “They were so touched by people they don’t even know.”

The number of strangers keeping tabs on Granton did surprise family members, including Civilla Ball, Granton’s 81-year-old great-grandmother from Yukon, Okla., who improved her computer skills to become one of the blog’s most prolific commentators.

“You notice a lot of people from other places, people who have never met any of the family — that’s pretty interesting,” Ball said. “The little guy is touching a lot of lives. Yes, a lot of lives.”

The blog also provided something important to Daniel and Jenni Bayless, who are devout Baptists. It became a place to pray for Granton’s recovery. They often wrote specific prayer requests: A drop in fever. Less use of an oxygen mask. Getting out of the hospital.

After they wrote about an unexplained swelling on his neck, a possible problem with his lymph node, Cleta Spellins wrote:

Hi Daniel and Jenni … I just took a moment to check on Granton’s blog and saw him smiling … what a handsome young man he is!! Jim and I are heading to church soon and we will have our church to be praying about the lump on Granton’s neck.

Granton’s parents turned to the blog comments for strength each day.

“It was just a great comfort that so many people were praying for us,” Daniel said. “It gave us so much peace.”

Amanda Rouse of Whiteland, Ind., knows that feeling. Her now year-old son, Grady, was admitted to the hospital for pneumonia at 7 weeks old.

“I found Granton’s blog through a friend after one of our longest hospital stays,” she said. “I was still so fresh with emotion from being with my baby in the hospital. … When my son was in the hospital, we took comfort in knowing that people all over the country were praying for him, and I know that many more than that are praying for Granton thanks to his blog.”

It was Pam Sparks’ job to put Granton’s name on the prayer list at First Baptist Church in Wichita Falls, Texas, where a Bayless family friend attends. Sparks decided to look at Granton’s blog and became enthralled.

She still peeks a couple of times a week.

“I will keep looking until they stop writing,” Sparks said. “I hope to see his graduation picture on there. I might even go.”

•••

We’ve been watching your blog since shortly after Granton went into the hospital. Our son is only three months older than Granton. We shed many tears along the way and said many, many prayers. It is such a great joy to see the three of you happy and healthy. May God continue to bless your family, you all are inspirations! — A family in Grand Ledge, Mich., Dec. 20

•••

Most of the calls for prayer have been replaced by happy pictures and positive updates.

The blog racked up more than 600 hits in the 24 hours after photographs of Granton sitting on Santa’s lap were posted.

“I can’t wait to hear the good news,” said Rachel Dominguez of Lee’s Summit.

Dominguez follows 10 to 15 blogs, and she goes to Granton’s almost daily.

“Once you get started and see the progress and you pray so hard for him, well, he’s like one of your own,” said Dominguez, who has never met the Bayless family.

Jenni Bayless said that she hopes to blog about twice a week.

“I sometimes look for the strangers,” she said. “It’s something unique that they value our blog.”

•••

I have been reading Granton’s blog for quite some time now. I just wanted to say what a sweet little guy you have, and what a miracle. I’m so glad your family got to be together for the holidays. I know that must mean so much to you all. I am always praying for Granton, and that he will lead a full, happy life. — Singell family, Nov. 28


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