Diagnosed with spina bifada at birth, 5-year-old Bryson Regot of Mexico has undergone six surgeries and countless hospitalizations. Yet, he greets each day with new energy, a positive attitude and unflinching will.
The youngster wears leg braces and has a walker to assist in his mobility. Wherever and whenever you see him on the move, he's practically running — something doctors told his mother he would never do.
Recently, Bryson was granted a wish through the Dream Factory of Audrain County to visit Universal Studios Florida. Bryson and his mother, Jamey Creed, left on June 16 and spent a week in Florida. His was the 195th dream the non-profit organization has granted in its 22-year history.
Bryson's trip to Florida was his first time flying on an airplane and his first airport security experience. He had to remove his braces and place them inside the scanning machine to clear the security line.
"We had to go through the gate two times, and then we got to go real far up (in the sky) and I got to drink soda and eat pretzels," Bryson explained.
When they arrived in Florida, Bryson's entourage checked into their hotel and spent the evening swimming. Ten members of his family planned their vacation so they could share in his fun. The next day, they all went to Universal Studios.
"The whole experience was exciting," Creed said. "Going in, we had to find a wheelchair to get us where we needed to go, and finding what was good for him was a wild experience as well.
"He really liked Cat in the Hat Land and the One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish rides. We actually went thousands of miles to ride the scrambler. He rode it like 10 times."
When asked the favorite part of his trip, Bryson said meeting Goofy and swimming with the dolphins. Creed said her son is a good swimmer and enjoys the water. One memento he brought home was a shark tooth on a chain, along with other memorabilia.
"I like sharks, don't you?" he asked.
Spina bifada is one of the most common permanently disabling birth defects in the United States, that happens when the spine and back bones of a fetus do not close all the way. The defect occurs within the first few weeks of pregnancy, often before a woman knows she is pregnant.
Most children born with spina bifada live full lives, though they often have lifelong disabilities and need many surgeries. Some children may have problems such incontinency, mobility and learning challenges, while other children do not. With the right care, most of these children can lead independent and productive lives. Each year, about 1,500 babies are born with the defect.
"Bryson has the disease, but the disease does not have him," his mother said. "He never lets it stop him from anything. He always finds the power to live his life, and pretty much does whatever everyone else does."
Page 2 of 2 - She added: "In many ways, he's my strength."
Creed said in a few months Bryson will have another surgery to fix his legs. Meanwhile, he's preparing for his first year in school. The kindergartner loves to read and frequently visits the public library, where he loves playing on the computers and reading "Clifford The Big Red Dog."
"I've never treated Bryson like he was a child with a disability. My biggest thing in life is to send him as far as he can go, without him knowing something is wrong. I want people to ask him questions and to not pull their child from him because he wears braces. He will tell them, I have them so I can walk," Creed said.
"I try to instill in everyone I know, just because you have a disability, doesn't make you different. It makes you a person, like everyone else. We all put our pants on the same way everyday."
And Creed has instilled that same belief in Bryson.
"People always tell me how awesome he is, and how advanced he seems for his age," Creed said. "And the reason they say this is because I haven't given him the chance not to advance.
"Doctors said he would be a vegetable child and would never walk. But, after each operation or hospitalization, he comes out kicking everytime."
The Dream Factory of Audrain County granted its first dream on Dec. 21, 1991. The group is currently working on Dream No. 200. The chapter has 12 volunteer members, who serve all of Northeast Missouri from Interstate 70 and Hwy. 63 to the Iowa line. Creed and her mother, Penny Creed-Craghead, joined the group after Bryson's experience.
The chapter meets at 7 p.m. the third Tuesday of each month at the Mexico Area Chamber of Commerce.
The group holds fundraisers to fund its dreams. The Annual Dream Factory Golf Tournament will be Aug. 23 at the Arthur Hills Course. Registration is from 8:30-9:15 a.m. A shotgun start is at 9:30 a.m.
On Oct. 5, the chapter plans to celebrate its 200th dream, with a public celebration from 2-4 p.m. at the Historical Society shelter. Past dream recipients are encouraged to attend with their families.
For more information about the organization call Lisa Silver at 581-1380, Paula Hill at 253-1253, or Robin Biggers at 253-0219.
"This is the best thing that Bryson has ever experienced, and for that, I say thank you to the Dream Factory for giving my son the opportunity to do something I couldn't afford to do for him," Creed said.
Bryson's father is Bobby Regot of St. Peters, and he is the grandson of Penny and David Craghead of Mexico.