Branden’s story

| 25/02/2009

I find it incredible that I must defend the rights of an 11-year-old child. I find it absolutely offensive and sickening that I must further defend the rights of an 11-year-old child with a disability.

To add insult to injury, I am not defending him against a spiteful teacher or a malicious class bully but am forced to paint pictures of his hardships and future to our own government who feel that his life is not as significant as a “normal” kid in this society. Do I not have enough to worry about with trying to extend his life and make the hard choice to provide him with quality over quantity? Did you have to make that decision foryour perfectly healthy child?

I want to walk you through the story of Branden Rivers, my pre-teen son who has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). As you take this journey with me I want you to keep something in the back of your mind for me…store it like a winter nut so that by the Springtime of this story (when new birth and new hope always emerge) you can examine the “nut” and hopefully gain a little more insight into what it is that you have been storing. Here is what I’d like you to store: We are all equal in the eyes of God. It’s a very simple concept, not new to anyone. Once you have thought about it, we can begin.

I will not attempt to purge every detail of Branden’s short life here as there is much to write and I really have a point to make. Rather, I will give you the highlights (and lowlights) and let you have a glimpse of what it takes to make it through his day and what his future holds. Feel free to comment on this story – I already know that there are people out there who will find something negative to say. I really do not care as you don’t have to live with him nor do you have to deal with him. What I do care about is that ignorance makes for bad decision making. My purpose here is to enlighten you about the other side of the coin – the innocents that are affected by overzealous people who may or may not have a hidden agenda. My purpose is to tell Branden’s story and let you decide.

Branden is a fraternal twin (not identical). His brother is an ox, perfectly healthy and built to carry heavy loads. Sadly, we did not think that his heavy load would be physical and emotional…in the form of Branden. They were big boys at a full-term birth; Branden was 7lbs 5ozs and Jordan was 6lbs 8ozs. They grew and thrived in a loving home with more toys than I could find place for and matching outfits that lasted only one use (I was adamant that they were at least in different colours of the same design).

As is usually the case with twins, parents tend to compare one against the other and any apparent lack of development is always cause for alarm. So it was with us when Jordan began walking at 11 months and Branden had not even begun to crawl properly. He did what I call a “combat crawl” using his arms to pull him around on the floor with one leg bent and propelling him forward. Naturally, I took him to doctors who explained the whole lazy baby, delayed development, nothing to worry about spiel. We were told to wait until he was 15 months and if nothing happened by then, we should worry. Well, he finally walked just shy of turning 15 months. What a relief and cause for rejoicing!

Let me pause for a minute to say this: As a parent we are heartbroken from the day we find out about the new life that has been created for us. Yes, there is extreme joy but our hearts break because we know that we cannot do everything for this child, cannot fix every problem or make it all right. Anxiety builds about what kind of parent we will be and what kind of challenges they will face and how they will be treated in life. We only want the best for them and secretly cry when they fall down, or are rejected by someone at school or lose the race. That pain grows exponentially when you have a special needs child. It is not fair! Why must this happen? He is only a little boy! He did nothing to deserve this! But through it all we still protect them. We are still their parents and they still depend on us to make it all right again. It is our job – what we were tasked with. God never gives you more than you can handle.

So let’s fast forward about 3-4 years. Branden and Jordan proved to be very active little boys. But there was always something a little slower about Branden’s movements. I let people joke about it but it hurt me deeply to think that theremight really be something wrong. He was called “Forrest Gump” when he started Little League because his running wasn’t really a run at all but a slow motion fast walk with a funny (not haha funny) hip roll. He was called “Two Seconds Later” because whatever Jordan did, Branden could only duplicate with a delayed response that took about 2 seconds to begin…and much longer to complete. Family referred to his “bad leg”, which I hated to hear because you never want to face an imperfection with your child. He was called lazy because he just couldn’t climb those stairs that Jordan raced up and down on. When I had to choose who to chase and remove from immediate danger (because they always went in opposite directions!) I unfailingly picked Jordan because I knew Branden would take twice as long to reach his destination.

Then there was the falling down. He always fell down. We would laugh at his grandmother’s attempt to walk behind him with a pillow so that she could lurch forward and drop it in place to cushion his bottom when he landed. You laugh at things like this without the humour because the act in itself looks funny, but the dirty little underlying meaning is too serious to want to face. During all of this, throughout his first 5+ years of life, I took him to every doctor, every visiting specialist…everyone. The range of opinions was far reaching…and wrong. He got worse.

Finally when he was 6, we made an appointment to see another visiting specialist in pediatric orthopedics – this visit would change our lives forever. We were ordered to get a blood test immediately and on Feb 9th 2003 at 9am I got the call at work with the results – Muscular Dystrophy. I died that day. My hopes and dreams for my baby boy were sucked out through the syringe that pierced his vein and withdrew his blood. Ignorance is bliss and a very comfortable place to lay your head and disregard the real world. Knowledge is power and sharply yanks the spiked chains around our necks so that we are forced to confront everything painful, everything shocking and everything unequal in the world.

I cried bitterly for 2 weeks. Every time I looked at him it refreshed the tears. I cried for my loss. I cried for what his life would amount to – the deficit of his sum of parts. I mourned his death and planned his funeral. I got angry. I got quiet. I stopped eating, I overate. I resented his brother’s health, I resented his sickness. I was mad at God, I prayed to God. All the while, my husband said and did nothing. He was unaffected – as far as I was concerned…that made me angrier. In my own profound grief I was unable to understand the way he handled it. In the two weeks that I fell apart he analyzed every piece of information as is his way. He was my pillar until I could reason again. In the third week after his diagnosis I woke up and had a revelation. I could choose to sink into the quicksand of depression until the day he died and be utterly useless to him, my other son, my husband and myself or I could snap out of it and savor every minute that we were given and make the best of a bad situation. As I sit here today I can honestly say that I chose the latter but have revisited the quicksand on so many occasions that my footprints are permanently embedded in the path. Shortly after I emerged, my husband sank and we have struggled to pull each other up and out of despair like a wrestling tag team ever since.

Now here we are. Branden is 11 and in a wheelchair. He began to have more difficulty walking last year and required someone to walk beside him so that he could hold on to keep his balance. More often than not and with increasing occurrence, Jordan would simply sling Branden onto his back and the two would be on their way. It was more comfortable for Branden to have Jordan carry him than us as it looks more natural, as if they are two normal brothers goofing around and piggy-backing. Branden possesses a great amount of pride and abhors attention. He would rather fade into the background and be invisible than have people gawk and stare. It breaks my heart when insensitive people ask what’s “wrong” with him…right in front of him. I simply smile and say nothing is “wrong” with him, he is perfectly fine. He is just built a little differently. God chose to give him a bigger brain and had to use some of his other muscles to get the job done.

My husband and I decided in the beginning that Branden would know everything we did (within reason) so that nothing would come as a shock to him. We have educated him beyond his years. When most boys his age are out playing football until sunset, Branden is stuck on the sidelines with a head full of information explaining why he can’t do the same. Yet he has NEVER asked “why me”. When his brother has complained about having to take Branden somewhere or pick him up or retrieve a toy just out of reach, Branden’s response is, “Do you think I WANT you to have to do that for me? Don’t you think if I could do it for myself I would?” I walk away and cry in private because this bright little boy is so trapped in this body that is slowly deteriorating. Because long after he is unable to lift his arms or breathe on his own, his mind will still be sharp and his wit and quick come-backs will be forever lost behind lips that will not have the strength to form the words.

He does not complain. He tries so desperately to live a normal life. He has hopes and dreams and a crush that he’s had since he was 6. He picked out the car he will drive and designed the house he will build…when he was 8. He knows what he likes and defends his tastes vehemently. He vocalizes his dislikes with the fervor of a seasoned lawyer. He is a perfectionist and so creative that it puts some well known artists to shame. He wants to space travel and paraglide and jump out of a plane, all of the natural desires that most every 11-year-old boy dreams of. He loves his 2 year old sister, Amelia, unconditionally and beams so brightly when she crawls into his lap so he can wrap his arms around her and kiss her head. But at the very pinnacle of his list are two very important items that the rest of us take for granted: he wants to walk again – this time easily and freely – and he wants to RUN. Oh, and he wants to one day be able to pick his sister up and carry her on his back as his brother has carried him.

He had surgery this month (February) to snip his Achilles tendons and reattach them to help straighten his feet that were turning inward from the retraction of his calf muscles. He was not afraid. Never cried, never asked “Why me?” I cried, I asked “Why him?”. He went into surgery and never called after me as I walked away crying. He went as a brave soldier to war. His only words were, “I’m not a baby!” No, he’s not…he’s a big, brave boy but he still needs myprotection. He came out groggy but not crying. I cried. The nurses were amazed at how quickly he found his senses and how strong his constitution was to heal. He was released within hours, two brand new casts adorning his legs. Comments like, “Boy, you’ve had a bad day!” just make him smile. They have no idea.

He has been in physical therapy for years. It’s really only to prolong his ability to walk for a little while longer…we all know where this will end up. We are not living in denial – only faith and hope. Since surgery his therapy has increased to 3 or 4 times per week and his progress is outstanding. He knows what’s at stake and is fighting so hard to win. He is determined and focused and gives it his all. It is paying off. The strength in his upper legs is building and he is able to lift thema few inches now. That is a major event for us. Normal kids must do great feats of athletics to impress their parents; my son need only raise his leg an inch or two off of the floor. I am crying.

Over the past 11 years I have fought tooth and nail to protect him from ignorance and insensitivity. I have been forced to degrade my pride to tell our most private stories to complete strangers so that he can receive what he needs and deserves. His insurance was in jeopardy when I moved jobs – even though I have taken it with me as a private client, paying the exorbitant monthly premiums to ensure he receives the quality healthcare he NEEDS to live. I was told that only the government standard could apply to his pre-existing condition even though he was a client years before he was diagnosed – has anyone really evaluated what is provided in the most basic insurance coverage this country allows? It is not sufficient for a healthy person, how could someone justify giving it to my child? In the end, I found a human who would hear my case and help me fight for my cause. While he is not receiving the same benefits that he had previously, I will have to make do with what we were given as it is better than the ‘standard’ care he is entitled to as a disabled person.

We have had the same domestic helper since the boys were 10 days old. She is amazing! We treat her like a member of the family. I have often joked that I am the surrogate mother and they are her children. She loves them and they love her. She has been with us through EVERY major life-altering event that we have experienced in the past 11+ years. We sent her to the US for 3 months with my boys after Ivan while we stayed behind and repaired our island. She cried with us at Branden’s diagnosis. She is the only other human being (besides us, his grandmother and occasionally Jordan) that he will allow to bathe him, help him use the restroom, wipe his bottom and any other private task you can think of. Every basic act that we take for granted he must rely on someone to help him do. There are only a handful of people he lets into his naked life…she is the only non-related one. She was facing the roll-over policy last year. We applied for permanent residency. It should not have come to that. There are exceptions to every rule…everything is NOT black or white. Someone in her position earns the right to be treated differently and judged on her contributions to a Caymanian family and merits of her unending service to us. I fought to keep her. WE need her…she does not need us. Branden needs her. I took the issue as high as I could go – to the LOGB – whose humanity and kindness helped us to open doors. There is also a very special person who must remain nameless but who was instrumental in resolving this dire situation.

I am so tired. I work full time to support my family (well maybe it’s really to support CUC!). I come home to a full time job caring for my children, one of whom happens to be in a wheelchair. I am fighting new battles everyday to ensure he and my other two have all they need and are not lost in the political upheavals and resulting sidewalk cracks.

If you are still reading this, I thank you for taking the time to hear our story. The rest will be my viewpoint on the current issues facing our country as it relates to Branden. He is my son. Let me write it again…HE IS MY SON, MY BABY, MY OFFSPRING. The future of the world does not depend on him, but the future of my family does. What happens to him could set the precedent for how people like him are treated.

I am a Christian. I believe in God and the Bible, His Word. I teach my children manners and morals and send them to a Christian school. I am offended that some feel that the average Joe Public is too unintelligent to know that the issue with protectingpeople like my son stems from the fact that they do not want to also protect the rights of gays. What else could it be? Am I to assume that there is a faction of Nazi extremists in Cayman that are influencing our leaders to weed out unhealthy undesirables so that they can once again groom a super race? A little farfetched, right? Or is that some powerful people out there really hate kids and old people and want to eliminate them once and for all…no?

As much as they would have us believe that this is not about the gays, it is surely the only reasonable explanation and fully explains the involvement of the Ministers Association to date. Remember that nut I asked you to store in the beginning. Stop for a minute and think about it. I find it puzzling that the section which deals with the fundamental protection of ALL rights of my boy is in jeopardy because we are afraid to grant that same protection to persons with alternative lifestyles. Let me stress…I do not condone homosexuality. I am not defending or protecting it. I shield my children from it…BUT I know homosexuals personally. I am even related to them. The ones I know are great people. Beautiful, loving and caring. They are people created by the same God that created Branden and you and me. Granting them basic rights will not turn Cayman on its ear. That’s why the Constitution must be structured in such a way to set out the laws for all who dwell here to abide by. If you are concerned about gay marriage, then make it only legal for a man and a woman to wed…wait, we did that already.

In the Constitution, my son is ‘labeled’ as a ‘Minority’ because he is in a wheelchair. He is not defined by his disability! He is defined by his smile, his intelligence, his love of mustard and the beach. He is special and loved and deserving. I am his mother, his lioness and I will protect him even against the people who are paid by this country to do the same. My protection is not just from bullies and insensitivities. It is also from laws and rules that seek to exclude him. How dare you judge him as subhuman and less than! Prisoners have more rights in this constitution than he will. Rapists, murderers AND child molesters. He is a CHILD!! He has been victimized enough by the unfortunate plight that he was born into. I will not stand by silently as we enter a pivotal point in the history of our islands and let one opinion of what must be done detrimentally affect his future…as bleak as that already is.

We have waited 37 years for a renewal of this document. We have never had a Bill of Rights. If we are taking the time to do it, let’s do it right. I have no problem being the burr in the butt of this process to ensure that one citizen gets his deserved rights. The intelligence we enjoy is God-given. The air we breathe is God-given…how can man be so presumptuous to attempt to take away rights from one creation in favour of another? Who made man God? Was my son created with less right to enjoy the air that you breathe? Is he less deserving of water and food, housing and education? For that matter, is ANYONE less deserving – gay or straight, old or young?

I attended the talk at the Family Life Center on Feb 19 and spoke out against what is happening with the Constitution. I heard the jeers and heckling of people from the church against opinions and statements made by those in support of the Human Rights Committee (HRC). It was embarrassing and disturbing that the very ones who should be tolerant of the human race, whom we feel should be nurturing and loving, were unruly and obnoxious in protest of issues that they disagreed with. I was reminded of the movie ‘The Passion of the Christ’ where they mocked and spit on Jesus – the same ones that followed Him and wanted healing from him. How disgusting that our leaders would encourage such behavior. It became a competition of who could invoke the loudest applause or cheers.

It comes back down to blackand white. You cannot expect it to be a clean cut and not have others affected. You cannot discriminate against the gays and protect the children, the elderly or the disabled. Why not? Because of society’s need to neatly label everything, we feel it necessary to plop people into categories to refer to them as a whole. Then when we try to write Constitutions and Bills of Rights we are faced with the sad decision to pick the better of two evils. In this case, we must protect our country from the big, bad, evil gay people and their unholy lifestyle and sacrifice the future of the children that will grow up with their own learned discriminations and issues. We are a nation founded on the Bible and its moral teachings – one of which is to love thy neighbor as thyself. Nowhere does it say that we must discriminate against anyone or take their rights away?

WWJD? What would Jesus do? I have a good idea of what He would do based on what the Bible says He did. Here was a man who dined with tax collectors and sinners, forgave prostitutes their sins and rubbed elbows with lepers and the diseased…all to the chagrin of the elected officials and holy men. He knew that they needed his attention more than the rest as He was sent here to heal the sick and set the sinner free. He did not condemn them or criticize them. He loved them into His confidences and taught them what He wanted them to know. They listened intently because He earned their trust and their love. More flies to honey than vinegar, so to speak. I am not accusing our religious leaders of being Pharisees, I am merely drawing references to bygone times where similar mistakes were made in the name of God.

I feel I must also defend my stance against recent comments passed by a certain member of government who is very close to this process. That he would have the audacity to infer that I and persons like me have been manipulated by the HRC to feel the way we do is insulting. I will describe myself as a self-proclaimed person of reasonable intelligence and as such, can make heads and tails of a variety of complicated things. It is with MUCH appreciation to the HRC that I am able to fully comprehend the nuances of Section 16 and of course the limitations. At least someone has taken the time to break it down. I have listened intently to the debates and read the articles and formed my own opinions. It’s quite simple to do really and often mitigates the danger of being misled. I find it laughable that the statements coming from government are that Sara Collins has a hidden agenda…of what? As far as I know she has perfectly healthy children, is married…to a man, doesn’t have any seriously ill, disabled or elderly people in her family and is not a homosexual. Could it be that she is a humanitarian? I do not know if she is a Christian or not but find her stance and fight to be of noble intentions and answering the call of WWJD. She is championing the underdogs…something our government is meant to do. She is taking on a fight that will not make her popular, will not pad her pockets nor will it give her rest. Why is she doing this? Because…it…is…the…RIGHT…thing…! Remember that nut..?

Our government has publicly stated that it saw no need to translate everything to us little people as we are obviously too dumb to get it. Never mind that we are the targeted audience,the very ones that the document is written for and, it goes without saying, the ones to whom the election candidates primp and pose every 4 years…

My involvement in this process is purely selfish and personal. I have no need of someone’s agenda as I have more than enough to occupy my days. I appreciate that there is a flipside to the coin, there always is. For me it is very simple: my son deserves the world. I should not be put in theposition to explain why Jordan has a free access pass through life and Branden must make do with crumbs. He has already suffered and it is the responsibility of our government to ensure that he is not victimized further.

So here is the Springtime of my writing. New hope, new birth, changing of the old guards. Take out that nut and plant it so it can grow. We are all equal in the eyes of God. Whether we are infirmed, old, young, funny…we all deserve to live in a better world.

As for our story, let me just say that I have hope never-ending. I have lived on the internet since 2003 reading everything I can about DMD. There is hope in so much research out there. I feel confident that the cure will come in Branden’s lifetime and only pray that he will benefit from it. The US has a new president who is all about change. Stem cells are a major part of that change. I have been storing Amelia’s umbilical stem cells waiting for the time that scientists will be able to use them to heal Branden. That reality is not far off.

Regardless of the outcome on May 20th, I will continue to be Branden’s mother and as such will continue to fight for his rights. My voice will be heard and his story will be known. The broad definition of ‘Minority’ encompasses people. People with lives. Lives that have meaning. They should not be written out of a document that means to discriminate – that is just UNCONSTITUTIONAL!

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  1. Laura A. Ebanks says:

    Thanks for taking the time to share this powerful and moving story. My prayers are with you and your family. Hopefully,  those in authority will realise that discriminiation of any kind is never the answer. It is my prayer that individually, and as a country, we will constantly ask ourselves, "What Would Jesus Do?" Keep the faith and stay strong!

  2. Paula says:

    Chels we have been best friends going on 30 years now and I have seen you and your family through the highest and lowest points and they have shown me that you are the strongest and most courageous person that I know; many times I have pulled my strength from you!!

    This article only just touches the surface of Branden’s story yet just enough to let Cayman into Branden’s and your family’s history of struggle and bravery in the face of what life can bring to some……….Cayman needs to know his story to bring the words off the paper into reality as some can’t
    fully understand or relate to words on paper as easily as they can by putting a real life face to it – tangible and factual!!

    Hopefully this will help them to finally fully understand and appreciate the reality and importance involved in the rights of those to whom they apply…

    To the writer of the comment on 02/26/2009 – 23:31 and anyone commenting along the same lines; you should re-read the story with a fresh mind as I think you missed the point entirely! I appreciate that you do not know her
    or her family and are unable to grasp the fight they have endured or the kind of person Chelsea is. She was not inferring that he has suffered discrimination to date (though he very well may have!). Her point is obviously that, should we proceed along the suggested path, he and others like him that are labeled minorities will be subject to legalized
    discrimination. Would you want that for your child?? For anyone in your family at all!? It is not about free medical – you are reading too deeply into one sentence and missing the thought process throughout the story. She used that merely to make the point that she has fought some pretty big fish to ensure her son is not forgotten or lost in the system. The point is there so please do yourself a favour and try again. Feel free to comment once you ‘get it’. Emotionally charged or not the facts are there and right is always
    right! What is being proposed is not right by every citizen in this country!

    Chelsea, please know that you are not alone in this!!!!

    • Anonymous says:

      I have known Paul and Chelsea for many years and can say they are not ones that look  for freebies and to suggest so is so inconsiderate. Just reading their story will bring tears to one eyes if they have a heart and worst if they are a parent. The majority of churches here are into money making and cover it up by selectively preaching parts of the bible that suit them. Tell them to declare what the preachers salaries are and we will all see. If we would all love one another whether gay or straight, sinner or christian what a better world it would be. Pastor AL and the rest please love thy neighbor as thy self and remove the log fromyour eye before condemming and discreminating against peoples life styles. Please don’t think i’m gay because i’m not and don’t care who is.

  3. Shannon McLeod says:

    Dear Chelsea,

    You have had many people that have answered this email with love and prayers in their hearts. I would like you too know I also wish you and your family the same, I have been working on the island for approx. a year and a half and have been trying to find families that  would be in need extra support. My boyfriend had passed this email on to me and i will continue to send it on to my other contacts. I would like you to know that I am an experienced child and youth worker with a college diploma and psychology university degree with a specialality  in child psychology. I have inquired several times about government programs that will provide extra services for families in need, and I would like to be in contact with you further to see if my services would be of any help to you and your family.

    Please take care,

    Shannon McLeod


  4. Anonymous says:

    So its wrong to discriminate against someone because they are born disabled but it is OK if they are born gay?  It is the willingness to support blatant homophobia in this country that is a disgrace. 

  5. Anonymous says:

    Chelsea, my heart goes out to you and Paul. You must be one of the strongest women I know.
    Thank you for sharing this story with me (and everyone else who takes the few short minutes to read it).

    I have to admit that until this week I have not truly looked into what the proposed Bill of Rights would mean (if accepted) to our islands and the many wonderful people who reside here, more importantly wonderful people like Branden.

    This story enlightened (and inspired me) more than I could have imagined that it would.

    Thank you again. May God continue to Bless you and your family and may Branden continue his progress!!!


    Mother of 3.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Over the last few weeks, I’ve been hearing a lot of talk about the less than adequate Section 16 of the Bill of Rights. I can honestly say that I did not pay much attention to it until today after I read Branden’s story, posted by his mom (my friend) Chelsea.

    I knew that Branden had a disability, but I never fully realised to what extent. I’ve never stopped to really think and analyse what a day in Branden’s ife (or the lives of Chelsea, Paul and Jordan) is really like. I have a daughter of my own who is almost pefectly healthy. We thought we had lost her at 18 months when she had a Febrile seizure, but that is the only MAJOR health issue she’s ever experienced. As Chelsea said, "Ignorance is bliss" and when you don’t have any family members who are afflicted with disabilites, you tend not to think about it so much.

    Now that I’ve read this heart wrenching story, I’ve really opened my eyes to what’s going on around us and I’ve begun my research. It might not be much, but what I’ve learned so far is enough for me to know that the current Bill of Rights that they are proposing for this country is inadequate and unfair to people with ANY type of disability.

    To the person whose comment asked the question "where are the examples of Branden being discriminated against?"; I say this. Chelsea’s goal was not to show you that Branden had been discriminated against (other than the example of Branden’s Health Insurance issue). Chelsea’s goal was and is to show that Branden (and all other people afflicted with ANY disability) are humans too. It was to show you what his quality of life is like and to let us all know that him and people like him deserve to be treated with respect and counted the same as every other human being. Chelsea’s goal is to explain the MAJOR inadequacies of the current proposed Bill of Rights, and to make every Caymanian and non-Caymanian alike living in this country realise that we have to speak out for these people and ensure that they enjoy the same rights and quality of life as every one else.

    I am so humbled by Branden’s story and I pray that it will open the eyes of every other person that reads it as it did mine. I have another child on the way, and we pray that this child will be healthy; but should we ever be told that our childhas any type of disability we will fight for his or her rights just as Chelsea is fighting for Branden’s. As a matter of fact, we will fight anyway because every disabled person (not just our children) deserves to have someone speak out for them.

    I am proud of Chelsea’s fight and my hat goes off to her and Paul! Please support Branden and everyone one else in his his shoes by voting "NO" against this farce of a Bill of Rights.

    And as a side note: I am not gay nor homophobic but I do know that we have been taught to love our neighbours as ourselves; and also that God loves all of His children no matter what their sin. That is why He gave His only begotten son, so that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. A sin is a sin, and being gay is no better or worse than being a murderer, aldulterer, liar, or thief. God loves us all, and the churches and their people (of all people) should be the last ones preaching hate and should instead preach love and forgiveness as Jesus did. 

  7. Anonymous says:

    The point is (a) that the Government should not be allowed to discriminate against disabled people in the country’s constitution – as is proposed by section 16 and (b) the only reason it was changed was because of the churches homophobia – even though inncoents like Brandon may be get shortchanged in the process.


  8. Anonymous says:

    There is no question that this is avery sad story, but (and I know this may sound cold-hearted – it is not meant to be) in my limited experience it is usually better to put emotion to one side when making important decisions.

    I have read the whole of Branden’s story and I am struggling to see any examples of Branden being discriminated against (this isn’t to say that it doesn’t happen – I just don’t see it in the story). The only possible example is the health insurance / medical coverage issue. Are we really advocating that everyone should be given free medical treatment? Has anyone looked into how much that would cost? Or worked out how we’re going to pay for it?

    If the Government doesn’t already provide assistance to those that cannot find heath insurance or cannot afford to pay for medical treatment, it should do. And it should do freely and without un-necessary red-tape. But I don’t think we need to use a sledgehammer to crack the nut….

    • Anonymous says:

      I would have to agree with "There is no question that". While that was indeed a wonderful and heart felt story, and I applaud the author’s courage and determination, I have yet to understand which of Brandon’s rights have been infringed upon. Discrimination from insurance companies is very common place (watch "Sicko"). That’s their job, that’s what they do, and there’s no way the Cayman Government can afford to give healthcare to all, we don’t even pay income taxes!!!

      Has Brandon been denied education due to lack of wheel chair access?

      What will change in Brandon and his mother’s life if section 16  is ammended to what the HRC suggests?

  9. Anonymous says:

    Chelsea – I was sitting behind you at the Constitution meeting at FLC and I am crying now as I did that night hearing Branden River’s story. As one mother to another I applaud you wholeheartedly for all that you have done and will continue to do for your family. Every voter need to hear your story.

    The HRC tried but it will be necessary for us all to take our "blinders" off and stand up for a constitution that provides equity and protection of ALL persons rights. The churches have missed the’s contradictory to preach love and forgiveness and then …not practice it.

    WWJD indeed.

  10. Anonymous says:

    While reading this article I had to be very careful not to break down and cry.  You see I am father to two wonderful children who are so remarkably blessed to not be touched by any physical or mental handicaps and I cannot imagine I would be so tolerant to a government that basically wants to legislate away the rights of my children to be treated as equal human beings under the law and rather as something to be looked upon as something less.  Mrs. Rivers, I hold you and your husband in the highest regard for what you are attempting to accomplish for your child.  Do not give up hope, for I believe, that just as in the recent United States election, where all popular polls stated that Americans were not ready to elect a black president,  people overcame their prejudices in private and did the right thing…Here too the people have the chance to do the right thing in the privacy of the polling booth.  Let’s not squander it.

  11. Anonymous says:

    The rights debate has been warped in recent weeks by an attempt to push through potentially wide ranging positive social rights through the guise of a non-discrimination clause. 

    The right not to be discriminated against because of sex, race, religion or sexuality generally does not place any great asset allocation burden on a state provide that it complies with its obligations. 

    The same cannot be said for amorphous positive rights to education or health care.  Inevitably the potential scope of these "rights" place a large cost burden on the state, a cost burden which ought properly be part of the democratic legislative and executive process.  Any consideration of the abuse of the "right to life" provisions in the UK Human Rights Act to demand expensive and experimental health care will see the dangerous path the HRC risk taking us down. 

    Providing better health care and education is laudable, using rights charters to do it is misguided and undermines the propsect of basic rights protections in the Cayman Islands.

  12. A Concerned Mother & Grandmother says:

     Hi Chelsea,

    Thanks for sharing this  heartbreaking story. In raising my wonderful three boys. I was always thankful to God for them and their health. and Hearing yours, my heart breaks for you and your family.  To tell you the truth I am so fed up with this Goverment and all previous Goverments for their total  disregard for the wishes of the people that put them in that Throne! that  they think they can’t lose! That I was not going to vote in this election,  But your story has certainly changed my mind. That I will certainly Vote and If my VOTE can protect /help to make your Son’s life easier in the future. Then my vote will make a difference!

    Thank you, You are a very brave Woman!!!!!

    And I have all  the Respect for you ! You are truly one of a KIND( MOTHER Material)!!!



  13. Anonymous says:

    Everyone should forward this story to every person in their address book, especially the politicians. If they recieve it multiple times, they might get the picture.

  14. KF says:

    Let’s take this one step further…. not as a means of comparison, but as an attempt to push people’s brains just a little more. Branden has a severe disability, but at the moment he is able to speak and convey his thoughts, feelings, wishes, etc. Think about the disabled who don’t have the ability to do that… those who are not only physically disabled, but mentally as well. On a side note, I’d like to poll the public to see who has heard of the Sunrise Centre & its contribution to the island.

    Bottom line: A disabled person is still a person who deserves the SAME RIGHTS as anyone else. They should not be denied by people who would rather compete for who is the most homophobic than be objective and keep the big picture in mind.

  15. Anonymous says:

    This article should be printed on the front page of both newspapers and if needed those who support a "no" should take up a collection to even pay for the privilege of having this story on the front page in its entirety. How can we get the compass and net news to put this front and center

  16. Redbayer says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. I feel very humbled. I hope that the Compass and NetNews will publish this story and I hope that the Government and the Ministers Association read it and are ashamed of themselves.

    People of Cayman, we need to have our voices heard in May!

  17. Nicole P. Hydes says:


    Thank you for sharing  this personal journey .

    I cannot find the words to express myself as the tears run down my face.

    I can only say I feel you, I hear you and my heart is overwhelmed; thank you so much for sharing.




  18. Brenda says:

    Branden and Jordan are two of the sweetest boys I have come by.  There is the ever present smile on both their faces and I have witnessed on many occasions the strength of Jordan and the determination of Branden.  God Bless them both.  Chelsea, you and Paul have proven to be quite the model parents.  I know you have been through a lot with Branden but we all pray that there will be a breakthrough soon and compliments of Amelia may there be a cure.  I would love to see him running around the place again.  They are a treat to watch.  Continue to pray and believe.


  19. Anonymous says:

    I am so incensed! I have signed the petition and just wish I could sign it twice. Equality Cayman petition at

    I will be voting NO on 20 May 2009.  This document is NOT good enough in terms of the protection it offers vulnerable people like Brandon and Keisha. It is incredible that such a poor draft has made it so far – that it is up for final approval – before reason or decency intervened on the part of either the politicians or churches.  However, the Caymanian people will still have the opportunity to speak loud and clear on this issue on 20 May 2009 and should vote NO.

    Good luck and God’s blessings to the Rivers’ family.




  20. anonymous says:

     Brandon deserves a proper constitution


    Please sign the Equality Cayman petition at

  21. TomCayman says:

    Ms Rivers

    Many, many thanks for sharing your story with all of us.

    True democracy can mean that one person CAN make a difference, and I know that your sharing of your story will make a difference to every one of us who reads it.

    May you continue to have strength, your boys are lucky to have such a strong, resolute and loving mother.

    To our elected officials…. give us the choice to vote for the full loaf !

  22. Anonymous says:

     I am overwhelmed with admiration for you, Mrs. Rivers. You have reminded us that this is not about power or politics. It is not about complicated debates or grand speeches or posturing. It is not about votes for the general election. It is about people, pure and simple. Each of us has the same need to be happy and fulfilled, to be left alone to get on with living the best we can. Each of us should take a look at the person or persons we love and think about how we would feel if they had a need that we could not fill no matter how hard we tried or how much we love them. We should them imagine that the promise of filling it (even partially) was dangled before us and then taken away. If the Constitution of this country could make life a little better for Branden, a little more secure, force people to be respectful to him and to give him the opportunities he deserves, why doesn’t it? Even putting that question in writing makes me angry to think that we have to ask it. Now the government is hiding behind flimsy excuses like "it’s too expensive to accept an obligaton not to discriminate" and "we wouldn’t be able to protect Caymanians anymore". The document itself says the Government can still protect Caymanians. Are we really expected to accept this? Isn’t Branden Rivers a Caymanian? Shouldn’t our Constitution give him the best protection he can get? There is simply no excuse. None. No excuse. Those responsible for this travesty, after reading your story, had better offer you an explanation and some assurances that Branden will get full protection of all of his rights to live the fullest life possible, not to be discriminated against in any respect. They had also better tell you that he is important enough that those rights should be in the Constitution and not some law that we will have to wait years for them to pass. I hope they will.

  23. Anonymous says:

    What a heart wrenching story!! The ministers, both political and spiritual, and all those fat bottoms, PPM and UDP, sitting in the LA collecting a salary from the people to look out for us should all be ashamed of themselves. There is too much judging going on in these islands and not enough love. WWJD – quite right Chelsea. You go girl!  I wish I could say that we’re all behind you, but it’s probably truer to say we all SHOULD BE behind you. Shame on all of us.

  24. Anonymous says:

    God Bless you and Brandon

    In my opinion, the politicians have sold their souls in the hopes that Rev Al and his Association of "Holier than Thou" , Self rRghtous, "We know whats best for you", church leaders will deliver the vote come 20 May 2009. Cayman has become a theocracy pure and simple. Unelected members of the church are given the authority from the Government to dictate policy and legislation simply because they claim that they (the church leaders) represent the "will of the people".

    Good People of the Cayman Islands, don’t let this travesty come to fruition. IF there are only two choices in May, Yes or No, PLEASE do what you know is right and vote NO. I also emplore your to e-mail the FCO directly with your concerns it worked for the civil service.  Contact them through their website or if anyone has the direct e-mail to the FCO,please post.

    Gillian Merron:

    David Miliband:

  25. Anonymous says:

    This has to be one of the most powerful stories I’ve read.  It invoked many emotions and caused me to think about my own life and circumstances!  My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family!  I hope that those in authority will truly come to understand the God of the Bible and realize that sin is sin, regardless of type.  Homosexuality is no different than adultery, lying or stealing.  So if criminals have those basic rights then why try to block the disabled just to spite the homosexual community?!?  God’s people are called to LOVE and that’s what draws them out of a lifestyle of sin and into His loving embrace!  Good luck.