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Travis child granted wish of a lifetime

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Charles Rivezzo
  • 60th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
When asked to describe his daughter in a single word, there wasn't a moment of hesitation.

"Miracle," said Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Couts, 60th Security Forces Squadron patrolman. "She has done everything she was never supposed to do."

Seven-years-ago the lives of Jeremiah and Erin Couts changed forever during an ultrasound for what they thought would be their first born child.

"How do you say three in Spanish," the ultrasound technician asked the young couple.

"And of course you're like, 'three what'?" Erin laughed, recalling the moment.

The Couts were expecting triplets.

"All you can think of is that they are all going to want an allowance at the same time, want cars and driver's licenses. I just thought, 'man, I'm done,' Jeremiah said laughingly.

Throughout her pregnancy there were never any signs of complications. Erin and Jeremiah were excited to start their new family. It wasn't until the day of delivery that everything rapidly changed.

"When I woke up that morning I fainted," Erin said. "They thought it was anxiety about being a new mom."

Unbeknownst to the civilian hospital staff, Erin was bleeding internally.

"Our daughter's placenta had separated from the uterine wall; therefore, internally everyone was bleeding to death," Erin said.       

When the doctors couldn't find a heartbeat they rushed Erin into surgery for cesarean-section. Delivered at 3-pounds, 15-ounces, Brinlee was given 21 minutes of cardiopulmonary resuscitation and placed on life support. Her brother Bo didn't suffer any complications, but her brother Bailor's left hand didn't grow completely during pregnancy.

"Things could have been so much worse," Erin said. "A lot of people see our birth as a tragedy.  People might think, 'they had triplets and two of them have disabilities, how do they live?' But we feel extremely blessed to have them."

For months the Couts family lived in the neonatal intensive care unit as their daughter fought for her life.

"Her body would change every day," Jeremiah said.

During the first year of life, Brinlee underwent two brain surgeries and one open-heart surgery. Because of the complications at birth, Brinlee suffers from cerebral palsy, strokes, a heart defect, epilepsy and mild autism.

"They told us at birth that this little girl was going to turn our world upside down," Erin said. "They said she was going to make our life unlivable."

They presented Erin and Jeremiah with a choice to stop efforts to save her life.

"My first thought as a mom was 'I got pregnant at 21 with triplets, she just came through 21 minutes of CPR and now I'm going to give up on her?' I can tell you that was the hardest decision of my life," Erin said. "I didn't want her to live in pain. If you look at her on paper, you would expect a vegetable.

"But she is amazing, she is inspirational," Erin continued. "A lot of doctors said she would never walk, talk or eat and she's done all of those things."

Life has never been easy, but Jeremiah and Erin said that every day is special. At age five, Brinlee took her first steps. She's now graduated to a tricycle and Jeremiah said, "There's no keeping up."

Although her progress has been nothing short of a miracle, Brinlee's condition is considered terminal. So the Couts sought to do something special for their daughter.

They submitted an application to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Brinlee's application was accepted. She would have her "wish" granted.

"We were so excited," Jeremiah said. "There were so many things to choose from, we had no idea what to pick."

In previous year's the Couts family made it a family tradition to visit Disneyland every year. Erin said it's a place the whole family gets to enjoy - especially Brinlee.

"We thought, why not Disneyworld," Erin said.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation accommodated the request and arranged for a weeklong vacation for the entire family to stay at the Give Kids the World Village resort and provided tickets to Disneyworld. With a limo set to shuttle the family to the airport, Brinlee's wish was set.

But to send Brinlee off in style, Jeremiah's squadron planned what the family thought would be just a "small sendoff."

On April 4, a motorcade of police cars, fire trucks, ambulances and off-roading vehicles lined Travis Blvd.  Both on- and off-base law enforcement and emergency response agencies came to "convoy" the six-year-old and her family off base.

Her spot in the parade was in her father's arms outside the gun turret of a Humvee.

Hundreds of military personnel and their families showed up to wish Brinlee farewell.

"We shielded Brinlee's story for so long, we didn't really know a lot of families here," Erin said. "So for more than 100 families to show up to support a little girl they don't even know is pretty special. We're just so grateful."

With horns blowing and sirens flashing, the parade-style send-off worked its way down Travis Boulevard as Brinlee smiled and waved to the crowd.

Her brothers, Bo and Bailor, rode along in the motorcade with their "sissy."

"I'm excited to get away with our family," Erin said. "With the medical aspect and being in the military, it's just nice to get away with the family and make memories with our children."

Although not every day is easy, every moment to the Couts family is a special one.

"Her hope lies within us," Erin said. "She's not supposed to be here. She's our miracle and I'm just grateful for her journey."