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A Good Attitude for Healing

Brad Bray underwent a surgery that only six people had undergone before – and no one survived. “But I had no other option,” Brad shared.

Brad Bray (center) and his parents (on couch) reunite with
hospital staff after a life-saving procedure
that only six
people had undergone before.

Brad was born with tracheomalacia, a rare disorder in which the trachea (windpipe) has not developed properly. Instead of being rigid, the walls of the trachea are floppy. Because the windpipe is the main airway, breathing difficulties begin soon after birth.

Brad makes his living writing song lyrics, many for Nashville artists. But, dozens of employees at Saint Elizabeth know him for his throat and lungs and the 111 bronchoscopy procedures performed here.

A bronchoscopy is a special technique for looking inside airways. The procedure allows the physician to see more detail than pictures taken with X-rays. A bronchoscope, a thin, flexible, fiber optic tube, transmits pictures from the tip to an eyepiece or video set. If needed, the physician can open blocked airways.

Brad was at Saint Elizabeth for a bronchoscopy every three days from November 2011 through April 2012. He became a favorite of nearly everyone, from front entrance ambassadors to the admissions team, surgery prep, the endoscopy department, nurses, aides, physicians and anesthesiologists – the list was long.

Brad is described as inspirational. “He is a great example of how a good attitude makes a significant difference in healing,” shares Vicki Lund RN.

“We were always so glad to see him!” explains Marilyn Harge RN in Short Stay. “His attitude was incredibly positive every time.”

On Brad’s 100th bronchoscopy, the Saint Elizabeth team threw Brad a party. He was greeted with an assortment of goodies, including an original “roses are red” poem and 100 of his favorite shortbread cookies.

Brad’s condition is so rare that he sought out specialists in Boston and California. He underwent a surgical procedure called a tracheaplasty in Boston that helped for a while. After living with tracheomalacia for nearly 50 years, he needed a second tracheapalsty and only one surgeon (in California) had performed these. With six failures, the surgeon only agreed to this complex surgery after exploring a new way to perform it.

Before he underwent the surgery in California, Brad gave several Saint Elizabeth staff a CD of his music, received prayers and well-wishes and was presented with a prayer shawl (prayers are woven into each stitch) from our Pastoral Care team.

Brad’s parents agreed to call with updates. When the call came saying Brad had survived the surgery, hopeful smiles appeared on many Saint Elizabeth faces. Brad’s surgery went well. And, three days after returning from California, Brad stood tall and proudly strolled into the hospital breathing better than ever.