The Gilbert family who fought to get their toddler an experimental treatment to shrink her brain tumor is now planning to help other families hold events for loved ones with medical needs. Briannah Grace Olsen, known affectionately as Baby Briannah in the Gilbert community, has an inoperable grapefruit-size tumor in the center of her brain.
The official diagnosis of juvenile pilocytic astrocytoma is not cancer, but involves a slow-growing tumor that threatens her life if it gets much larger. Phoenix doctors have told the family there is little they can do.
But last June the family was able to bring Briannah to the Houston-based Burzynski Clinic, where she began receiving nontoxic gene therapy to shrink the tumor. Recent MRI scans have revealed a shrinkage of the butterfly-shaped tumor, and another more extensive scan is planned for late May to analyze her progress.
Since the treatment began, mom Tammy Olsen said the youngest of her three daughters has been happier and healthier than ever.
"We've been able to enjoy this year," Olsen said. "It's been wonderful. No trauma. No injuries."
In the past, Briannah has suffered complications including swelling on the brain which has since been eased with stents placed in her skull.
Briannah's growth since the treatment began is noticeable, her parents point out - and she's gained weight due to a special diet her parents keep her on.
Now 2 1/2 years old, she has grown to 37 pounds, more than twice her weight just last year, and she's the normal height of a child her age.
Due to the tumor and a surgery when it was first discovered, she still can't walk but she actively interacts with her parents and sisters, kicks, sits up and speaks baby talk.
Her father Mark Olsen, a 30-year musician, has begun to hold events to help other families who are trying to raise money for medical needs of loved ones, and for Christian events. He owns professional equipment that he plans to rent out or use at drastically discounted rates to families who are planning to raise money.
His production company, Sow Good Productions, offers services including sound production, PA system rentals, Christian DJ services and sound engineering. He said rates that he has been quoted of $1,500 to provide sound production for a special event can be cut in half by his company for fundraisers, and all proceeds would go to the Baby Briannah Foundation.
His ultimate goal is for the company to be known for giving back to other families, even while his family raises funds for Briannah's $6,400 monthly medical treatment.
"It's just a way for us to give back from where we're at," he said. "Now we're able to really help people."
Olsen said his family plans to donate all excess proceeds from the community's first golf tournament June 14 to the Baby Briannah Foundation.
For information on Briannah's story and Sow Good Productions, visit www.BabyBriannah.org.