Taking a leap of faith … to the beach




Their son has complicated medical needs, but that didn’t stop this Indiana couple from taking a family vacation to Florida.

By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior writer, mgilmer1@iuhealth.org

A little crazy? Maybe, Brianna Presnell said about her family’s spontaneous decision to take a road trip to the beach for spring break. That’s because their family of five includes a medically complex child.

Ten-month-old Maverick Presnell spent the first seven months of his life at Riley Hospital for Children. He was born with a diaphragmatic hernia, a hole in the diaphragm that leads to organs in the abdomen shifting up into a baby’s chest and compromising the lungs. In addition, he was diagnosed with a heart defect.

Surgeons in Riley’s heart cath lab were able to repair the defect, but setbacks with his underdeveloped lungs meant he was never able to successfully come off his ventilator, so his parents opted to have him receive a tracheotomy to manage his airway.

He was discharged with a ventilator, oxygen and a feeding pump.

The idea of a 14-hour road trip was daunting.

“A spur-of-the-moment trip was the only way we would conquer our fears of taking Maverick and all his ‘extras’ so far from home,” Presnell said of her and husband Sean’s decision to travel. “I am so glad that we did.”

When the couple brought Maverick home from the hospital, they weren't sure family vacations were going to be possible, but that wouldn’t be fair to his two older siblings.

So, they spontaneously booked a condo on a Monday and arrived in Panama City Beach, Fla., two days later.

“It was a short trip, but it was just what we needed,” Presnell said. “It was a great time for everyone to relax and for us to know that trips are possible.”

Mav wasn’t a fan of the water, but he loved watching from his wagon as his brother and sister splashed around, his mom said.

And everywhere he went, he found a friend, she added.

“He never meets a stranger, which I think is from being in the hospital for so long and being exposed to so many different people.”

Asked how she might encourage other parents of medically complex kids who are afraid to travel, she suggests trying a small trip to begin with.

“Just know it’s OK to be afraid,” she said. “Plan for every possible emergency and know that you can’t overpack with a medically complex kiddo. Reach out to those in similar situations for any tips and tricks they may have.”

And then, she said, “Just take the leap of faith.”

“We all had a blast and are already planning our next vacation to the beach.”