Branson Bearden

Branson Bearden runs cross country at North Sand Mountain High School, while dealing with difficult health issues.

Branson Bearden is an athlete and honor student at North Sand Mountain High School facing some difficult health issues. 

Despite the obstacles in his path, Branson keeps a positive attitude and has a drive that just will not let him give up.

One of the first issues that appeared with Branson was his speech which has declined significantly.  This first started over a year ago according to his mom, Jessica Bearden. He can be difficult to understand at times.

Branson’s parents have not gotten a definite diagnosis yet and are continuing to search for answers.  They are currently waiting to hear from the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.

“We are fighting,” said Jessica.

Branson has lost some of his fine motor skills, and that has progressed over the past few months.  Branson is a clever young man and sought the help of his younger sister at first when he needed to open things.

Three specialists have said that Branson has a neurodegenerative disease, and they suspect ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. He is being treated as an ALS patient at this time. The family is using the resources at the ALS clinic at Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga. 

However, Branson is still undergoing genetic testing. His parents refuse to just sit back and accept this diagnosis.

Branson gets speech, physical and occupational therapy at his school, but he still has to miss a lot of school due to other appointments.  He sees a functional neurologist three times a week.

Branson has to get up about 30 minutes earlier in the morning to do everything he needs to do and get ready for school. His mom is a teacher at North Sand Mountain, so he doesn’t have to worry about his ride.

Branson is a member of the cross country team and is determined to complete the season. His goal is to finish the race. 

“When I’m running, my legs lock up on me and almost just quit working at times,” he explained.  “I try not to think about it, but mentally I worry about my condition progressing and that I will continue to lose the ability to do things.”

Although Branson is only one of two cross country runners at his school, he has gotten support from everywhere. 

“Having all my friends there running with me and encouraging me helped me to push past the pain,” Branson said of a recent race.  “I knew they would help me finish, and that’s just what they did.” 

These friends, none of whom are runners, ran the race beside him cheering him on, and they were joined by the Pisgah High School cross country members who had already finished their race.

Branson was asked about the rivalry between NSM and Pisgah. 

“Pisgah is kind of the enemy but not when it comes to cross country,” said Branson. “They are always supportive, but I was surprised to see them join me after they had already run the race.”

  “I am still on the football team.  I haven’t been able to play, but I got to dress out for the homecoming game” he added.  “I got to attempt some field goals.  I didn’t make any of them, but it was just awesome getting to be out there.” 

It would be easy to have a negative attitude having to deal with all his issues at the age of 15, but his mom said Branson has always been a carefree person. 

“I’ve always been a positive person that’s pretty carefree,” said Branson. “This has helped.  Also, everyone has been so good to me that it’s kind of hard to get down right now with so much support.”

Branson’s mom has been amazed by all of the community support they have received. There have been special shirts and bracelets made to support Branson. 

Also the faculty and staff at NSM is helping to make Branson’s wish to visit Sea World a reality.  Branson’s grandparents are also helping out, and the family is moving closer for this support.

Branson has always been an A and B student and is keeping that up right now. He even takes dual enrollment classes. He said that his friends have already stepped up and done so much for him.  “They have kept my spirits up during this time.”

Branson is a member of the Beta Club and P.R.I.D.E. (Personal Responsibility in Daily Excellence).  He is also on the golf team.  History is his favorite school subject. 

“I feel like in history there are so many comeback stories, and I love those,” he added. “I love the school spirit everyone has at NSM. We truly love our school.”

When this young man has free time he likes to go outside, shoot basketball, and listen to music.

Branson’s mom said there is no family history of ALS. This disease is extremely rare in children. 

“We still have hope,” she said. “We are not in denial, but we just want to continue searching for answers.” 

She hopes they will get accepted at Mayo so a fresh set of eyes can look at Branson.

(1) comment

joe higdon

Praying for Branson!

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