Chesterton Tribune



BreeAnna Suitor 2017 Exchange Club ACE Award winner

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BreeAnna Suitor was recently awarded the A.C.E. award by the Duneland Exchange Club. A.C.E. stands for Accepting the Challenge of Excellence, and is given to a senior at Chesterton High School who has faced a challenging and difficult time in their life, has persevered and will graduate from high school. The Duneland Exchange Club gives this award each year to recognize a student for this achievement.

BreeAnna was born on March 20, 1999, in Lexington, Tennessee and moved to Chesterton in 2008. Her parents are Allison Johnson and Kevin Suitor, and she has one brother, Benjamin.

In July of 2015, BreeAnna was having a carefree summer before her junior year. While attending the Porter County fair she felt sick. She went home, took some ibuprofen and went to bed. Forty-five minutes later she awoke with a severe migraine headache. Her mom took her to the Franciscan-Alliance ER in Chesterton. Normally, an ER will give a migraine sufferer stronger pain medication and send them home. But, Dr. Orlando Cruz, who treated BreeAnna that day, had a gut reaction this was more than a migraine and ordered a CT scan.

Dr. Cruz delivered the sobering news that the CT scan revealed a mass on BreeAnna’s brain behind her left ear. He also explained an ambulance was on its way to take BreeAnna to one of three children’s hospitals, and BreeAnna’s parents had 45 minutes to decide which. They opted for Riley’s Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis. After four days of testing it was learned the tumor was the size of a golf ball, and was on her hearing nerve. It was smashing her facial nerve and pressing on her brain, but it was benign.

The tumor had been there a while, but its size was alarming. BreeAnna underwent seven different surgeries to remove the tumor. The first surgery took 16 hours, and removed 70% of the tumor. An ENT surgeon removed the tumor on her ear and the majority of BreeAnna’s inner ear. A neurosurgeon removed the tumor on her brain. Other surgeries included adding a shunt and regulator to control the fluid flow from the brain; removing her ear drum, making her completely deaf in the left ear; and placing a hearing aid near her left ear.

BreeAnna has experienced short and long-term effects from the tumor and its removal. She missed an entire semester of school and had to make up 15 credits in one semester. The surgeries left her with Bells Palsy on the left side of her face, a temporary paralysis which causes half of the face to droop. BreeAnna’s Bells Palsy has significantly improved, but she’s not fully recovered. The long-term effects include losing all hearing in her left ear; never riding a roller coaster; never flying in an airplane; never swimming under water; and never taking a cruise on a ship.

When Dr. Orlando told BreeAnna’s mom about the tumor she was in shock and disbelief. She is extremely thankful the tumor was benign. She made it through this difficult time with family support and because as a parent you have to be strong for your child.

When BreeAnna initially heard the news she started to shut down. Once she fully understood the situation, she focused on getting better. She too is thankful the tumor was benign. While in the children’s hospital she saw extremely sick kids, reminding her how fortunate she is. She also helped other kids while she was in the hospital. Nearby BreeAnna’s room was a one-year old boy who had severe burns on his legs. BreeAnna would spend time with him and provide comfort. Focusing on others helped.

Though BreeAnna was strong during this time, she was changed. Prior to discovering the tumor, BreeAnna was an outgoing person, and after the surgeries she became withdrawn, didn’t trust others and faced depression.

What surprised and saddened her was losing her boyfriend and friends during this time. Only one friend stuck by her side, and she has seen the worst in some of her peers. When she returned to school she was bald, she had scars on the back and side of her head, the left side of her face drooped due to the Bells Palsy and she had gained weight due to medication. One male student, whom she’d known for eight years, called her a “down syndrome dyke”. A female student, whom she had been friends with since fifth grade, continues to this day to make fun of her.

Thankfully, BreeAnna has learned to ignore them. Also, during this difficult time she received wonderful help from CHS counselor Julie Roytan.

”I hope people will get to know someone before they make a judgement about them,” BreeAnna said of her experience. She wishes more people were like the special needs kids she works with, accepting others for who they are, not what they look like.

Her mom said BreeAnna is now outgoing, loves to talk, is strong willed, determined and-self reliant.

Despite everything BreeAnna has been through, she has done remarkably well in school. Prior to getting sick BreeAnna’s grades were Cs and Ds, because she didn’t take school seriously and socializing was her priority. Today, she gets As and Bs and her focus is on learning.

BreeAnna has a bright future ahead. She has been accepted to five colleges, and she hopes to be a special needs teacher or a counselor.

Both BreeAnna and her mom hope all of us understand we are not promised tomorrow, so we need to make the most of today!


Posted 5/3/2017





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