It’s the pale pink protective helmet covering her head that immediately sets 7-year-old Brooklynn Eastland apart from other kids.
The shell keeps her safe from the effects of leukodystrophy and leukoencephalopathy, progressive brain and spinal cord disorders, and the seizures that can cause her to lose all brain function for a short period of time.
But over her short life, it’s the Harrisonville girl’s bubbliness, spunky attitude and scappy spirit that have made Brooklynn really stand out to those who take time to know her.
“She has fought through everything for several years,” said Cassie Fotovich, who is a cousin and best friend, like a sister, to Brooklynn’s mom, Jaklynn Eastland. “She’s been fighting and fighting and been in the hospital before when (doctors) have said there is nothing more to do and to prepare for her funeral.”
Until a few weeks ago Brooklynn was like other girls her age, begging to learn to ride her bicycle and playing with her cousins. Then she collapsed suddenly. Her condition had worsened. Tests revealed complications in her brain. Her blood pressure was dropping and she was waking only for short periods.
Her family has brought in hospice care in recent weeks. They wait.
Brooklynn’s loved ones, hoping their journey will help others, are working on the legalities of establishing a foundation to educate people about Brooklynn’s rare illnesses and to lessen the financial burden for families with children suffering from neurological disorders.
“A lot of this is to spread awareness for other families, and there’s really not help out there for many of the rare diseases and with everything that comes with them,” Fotovich said.
In early June, Side Pockets in Blue Springs was the venue for a poker tournament that raised nearly $200 following expenses. Other fundraisers are planned for coming months. A volleyball tournament is set for July, and more events are in the works.
Eastland and Fotovich had talked for a few years about creating a foundation and just started putting it together in recent months. Their goal is to provide financial assistance to families going through what they’ve faced.
Insurance doesn’t cover everything and Brooklynn has been in and out of the hospital numerous times. Other complications, such as seizures, require costly medication.
Brooklynn’s Hope Foundation will raise money to offset some these expenses for other families, and possibly to assist with Brooklynn’s expenses and funeral arrangements.
Its creation will also be a longlasting legacy of a little girl who ignored her pain to continue coloring in her coloring book or watch a favorite cartoon.
Jaklynn Eastland realuzed how tough her daughter is when she kept her pain to herself, so nurses and doctors would let her live her regular life.
She also knows that her daughter has beat many odds so far: Told that her daughter might not walk or even talk fluently, she saw Brooklynn play tag with other children and say words likeextraordinary
“I just tell her we fight and we’re going to keep fighting and ask God to bless us and Mommy is always here to catch her when she falls,” Eastland said.