When Tamara and Brian Scrimsher’s son, Bradey, was born in September 2002, they knew immediately that something was not right.
“He had trouble breathing when he was born and did not cry for the first four days,” said Tamara Scrimsher. “It was mother’s intuition. I knew right away something wasn’t right.”
By the age of six months Bradey had not reached several developmental milestones, and it was then that he was referred to an endocrinologist. Now, more than six years later, doctors can still not give the Scrimsher family a definitive diagnosis for their child.
But what has been a challenging six years for the Sandpoint couple has been made much easier by the fact that their daughters Bailey, 14, and Darbey, 11, have been a tremendous help and support with their little brother.
“It takes a great deal of patience to raise a child with special needs,” said Scrimsher. “If I need to get away or need a rest, the girls just step in and know what to do. I don’t even need to ask. I don’t know what I would do without their help. They are amazing kids.”
Over the last six years, Bradey has been to developmental pediatricians, undergone genetic testing, and made annual trips to the Children’s Hospital in Portland. In addition to his kindergarten class, Bradey currently attends various therapy sessions five days a week.
Referring to Bradey’s physical and occupational therapies as well as his upcoming EEG of his brain, Bailey laughs at the acronyms that abound in their household.
“PT, OT, EEG – it just never ends!” said Bailey.
So far the medical professionals have ruled out autism, but cannot pinpoint what it is that has prohibited Bradey from developing normally.
“Developmentally delayed is the best they can come up with,” said Scrimsher.
Bradey has a vocabulary of approximately 50 words, but to a person who does not know him it may sound like babble. The girls have learned several words in sign language which have made communicating with their little brother easier.
“I know the whole alphabet and about 20 other words,” said Darbey.
“We always say the words with the sign language so Bradey hears them,” added Bailey.
In the middle of all of Bradey’s testing and therapy sessions, Scrimsher, then 37, was diagnosed with breast cancer. She endured several surgeries and chemotherapy.
“It was hard for me to get out of bed a lot of the days,” said Scrimsher. “The girls just stepped up to the plate and were amazing.”
She said often the girls would help get Bradey ready in the morning; getting him dressed and helping their dad, Brian, prepare school lunches. Darbey said the hardest part is helping get Bradey dressed.
She laughs as she talks about how Bradey likes to play games running away from her as she tries to help him get ready.
“He thinks he can get away with everything. I guess I’m just too nice,” said Darbey.
As the older daughter, Bailey has always enjoyed taking care of Bradey.
“It just came naturally for me to help out,” said Bailey. Her mom agrees.
“Bailey has always been so mature for her age. She would make dinner for Bradey when I had cancer and I never had to ask her or Darbey to help. They just did it,” said Scrimsher.
For those familiar with the Scrimsher family, one thing is certain – Bradey is his daddy’s little boy. Bradey follows Brian Scrimsher all the time with his own lawn mower, shovel, mini tractor or whatever chore Scrimsher seems to be doing at the time. But his job as a natural gas rep for Avista Utilities takes Scrimsher away on calls at all hours of the day or night. That is when the girls are especially helpful.
According to Scrimsher, it is big sister Bailey who can convince Bradey to try new things.
“He will do things for Bailey that he won’t do for other people,” said Scrimsher. “In fact it was Bailey who taught him a lot of his first words.”
And now that Bradey is in public school kindergarten, Darbey, who is in sixth grade at the same school, has done a lot to assist Bradey with the transition. Darbey takes Bradey to his classroom each morning making sure he hangs up his coat and gets his things to the classroom.
“Bradey won’t let go of me. We walk to his classroom and then he has to go to mine. I always end up then having to take him back to his class,” said Darbey.
And when Bradey’s age group passes by his big sister’s classroom, Bradey will often escape from his line to go give his sister a hug.
“He adores her,” said Scrimsher.
For Bailey and Darbey, having a brother with special needs has taught them a lot about patience and the need to be accepting of others.
“Bradey’s unusual. He doesn’t grow up too fast so we get to watch him do new things,” said Darbey.
“Every milestone is a big deal in our family,” said Scrimsher.
Darbey says she likes the fact that her friends do not treat Bradey any differently because he is delayed.
“Sometimes it is sad to say he is 6 years old because I want people to think he’s normal because in my eyes he is normal,” said Darbey. “But nobody really asks (about why he doesn’t act like a typical 6 year old). They just think he’s a cute little angel.”
In fact she jokes that Bradey has more friends in school than she does. “It’s his first year and I’ve been going there for six years. But he has all these kids say hi to him in the hallway.”
Bailey said she has learned to reach out to people who may experience special needs and to encourage others to do the same.
“It has made her more sensitive and it’s been a domino effect,” said Scrimsher. “All her friends are the same way.”
Bailey said she would advise anyone who sees someone who may not be fitting in whether they are special needs or not, to reach out and show some kindness.
“Just because they’re different doesn’t mean they don’t have the same qualities as you and I have,” said Bailey. “Because Bradey has a definite personality.”
In January, Bradey will undergo more extensive testing and this time Scrimsher is hopeful that they will get some answers. “I had this doctor tell me we will figure this out,” said Scrimsher. “No one has ever said that yet. I am very hopeful.”
Whatever happens, the Scrimsher can be proud of their daughters and Bradey. While it hasn’t always been easy, the experience has brought them even closer as a family.
“We have all come together as a team,” said Bailey.
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