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Tribute to Gladewater soldier on tour turns into vigil for hospitalized wife

By Richard Yeakley ryeakley@etcnonline.com
Sept. 30, 2012 at 12:24 p.m.


When a pregnant Gladewater woman tied yellow ribbons to the trees around her home, they were to stay only until her husband returned from a military tour in Afghanistan.

He's back, but now the ribbons are remaining until she gets home from the hospital.

At 34 weeks into her pregnancy, Heather Brown had serious complications that led to an emergency delivery by Cesarean section after she slipped into a coma. The news brought her husband, Sean Brown, racing home to be with her and his newborn son.

He had begun his mobilization in May after learning in late February his wife was pregnant.

"It was probably one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. Knowing that this birth was about to happen, knowing that you have a family duty to stay home and provide that extra protection now that you have this child on the way," said Brown, a 35-year-old senior patrol officer with the Gladewater Police Department, and a corporal with the U.S. Army National Guard.

"I am working law enforcement, giving my life to protect the individuals here, now I am protecting my country and the individuals overseas. Now I have a wife at home that needs protection, and in her current condition I feel helpless because I can't do anything for her."

The Browns met 10 years ago, and had been trying to have a child for the seven years they've been married.

Heather Brown, 34, saw the baby boy as a blessing, said her brother Jason Burwick, who came from Killeen to Gladewater to support her and his brother in law. She took care to protect the baby during her pregnancy, he said, avoiding caffeine and going on bed rest when doctors advised it.

"She's prayed for this baby for seven years, and was finally blessed with this beautiful gift, and now she doesn't even know that he is born," Burwick said. "She tried for seven years. She always felt definitely blessed to be pregnant because of the struggle she had gone through for so many years."

Her son, John Michael Thomas Brown, was named for both sides of his family.

The infant was immediately taken to Trinity Mother Francis Hospital in Tyler where he was placed in the neonatal intensive care unit, but has since been moved from the intensive care unit and is expected to come home to his father within the next week.

Brown already is a proud father.

"He is doing exceedingly well, feeding on a regular basis," he said. "He is exceeding the expectations of the nurses in the NICU."

Heather Brown, however, remains in a coma. She went to East Texas Medical Center in Tyler on Sept. 14 when she began to have seizures and slipped into a coma. She was diagnosed with preeclampsia, the development of high blood pressure and protein in the urine after the 20th week of pregnancy, Brown said.

The disease affects from 5 percent to 8 percent of all pregnancies, according to the Preeclampsia Foundation.

At 4:42 on Sept. 15, John Brown was delivered.

Sean Brown said he is not looking for donations, but an account has been set up at Austin Bank to receive them. It is called the "Heather and John Brown Fund." Longtime family friend Charity Robinson said donations would help Brown spend time with his son when he is released from the hospital.

"Sean and John need some time together," she said. "It would be wonderful if the funds were there for Sean and John, so Sean didn't have to go to work immediately."

The main request of the family is prayer.

A Facebook page with the title "Bringing Home the Browns" was created Thursday to share Heather and John Brown's story and prayer needs with the world.

Since that time, the page has received more than 2,000 likes.

"I am not expecting donations. What I am asking for is prayer and positive thoughts," Sean Brown said. "Family and the church community - they are the main mental foundations that I have had to lean to during this time ... I have had nowhere else to go but family, friends and the Lord."

The community has gathered together to support the couple.

Robinson told the story of hiring a carpet cleaner to steam clean the floors in the house before the child arrived. All parents want their baby to come home to a clean house, Robinson said.

When the floor cleaner finished and left the bill it read, "Pd by the love & grace of our God."

Burwick said the nursing staff at both hospitals have cared for the patients, and ETMC, where Heather Brown works, offered a suite in the hospital for the family to use while waiting on her recovery, which doctors say is hopeful.

"The doctors are expecting her to eventually come through, to what extent, we are unsure," Brown said.

He said his wife is responding better each day to tests that measure the brain's responses to stimuli.

The new father, who says he has found a faith he never experienced and wakes every morning to pray for his wife and son, said he is ready to enjoy spending the first days of his son's life with the tiny newborn.

"I can't think of anything better to do than to be here with my son. I wasn't here, unfortunately, when he was delivered, but being with him now and further as he grows is something I don't want to miss," Brown said.

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