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Florida Sheriff candidate, family protect Grandson’s chance at life

Houston, TX –– Sheriff candidate Chris Strickland and his family know something about the value of life, both emotionally and in dollars. The St Johns County Florida family is affording their own next generation every chance to live, regardless the Fight.

Last Tuesday Strickland’s daughter, Brooke and Chase McNeal, welcomed Hudson Chase McNeal into the world via cesarean section. The birth took place following a tumultuous pregnancy in which Hudson was diagnosed in utero with myelomeningocele, a form of spina bifida, at only 21 weeks. He then underwent fetoscopic repair surgery at 25 weeks.

The most severe form of spina bifida, Hudson’s case of myelomeningocele was allowing for an opening in his spine to pull his cerebellum down into the spinal cord, hindering his brain’s ability to form properly and causing nerve damage in his lower extremities. Upon hearing the diagnosis, Brooke was given the option to terminate the pregnancy, but according to Chris Strickland that was never even an option.

That never occurred to her as an option. She just wasn’t raised that way. We believe that a child is a gift from God.”

Chris Strickland

Especially in Hudson’s case, knowing of his diagnosis and the limitations that a handicap as severe as spina bifida might hinder him with, Strickland said it strengthened his family’s resolve to Light for their grandson to have a chance at life.

Millions of babies are born with different types of handicaps and that handicap just makes them special. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give them a chance at life. It just means that you have a very special person that God blessed you with, and the reason He gave that child to you is because He knows you can take care of that child in the best way possible. That’s how we look at it.”

Chris Strickland

With the help of family and many friends, Strickland said his daughter was able to raise enough money to cover the costly, out-of-pocket portion of the procedure – exceeding $100,000 – and living expenses that moved Brooke and her husband to Houston in November to be within a 10-minute drive to Texas Children’s Hospital. There, doctors would be able to perform the highly complex fetoscopic spina bifida surgery.

It just shows you what love can accomplish,” said Strickland, of the impact his friends have had on providing aid to give Hudson this chance.”

Chris Strickland

The totality of circumstances surrounding Hudson’s birth has started to catch the attention of a few beyond Strickland’s close friends. Some Republican officials in the surrounding region and in Tallahassee have taken notice of the level of sacrifices in this case. School Board Member Ashley Gilhousen from neighboring Clay County, also an RN, said that as a labor and delivery nurse she had the privilege of welcoming some of these precious and fragile lives into the world.

There is no greater reward as a nurse than to help a family through a scary and uncertain time – like the Strickland’s have endured – and then to bump into that same family 10 years later at their child’s school. We don’t always get to know the rest of the story as it’s written for our tiny patients and their families. But for those providential moments when we are able to see them thriving with big smiles on their faces despite the hurdles they have overcome to get where they are…those are sweet glimpses into just how precious and valuable every life really is and how important it is that we do everything we can to protect it.”

Ashley Gilhousen

State Rep. Anthony Sabatini, R-Lake County, said Strickland’s heart in this family issue is consistent with legislative colleagues co-sponsoring a new bill with Sabatini called the Heartbeat bill. A similar bill in Tennessee, also called ‘The Heartbeat Bill’ passed the state’s Health Committee yesterday, as similar bills are picking up steam in several states in what Sabatini calls a wave of respect for life.

This bill would save the lives of many unborn children by prohibiting abortions from the minute a baby’s heart starts beating.”


Rep. Anthony Sabatini

The doctors at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston had performed nearly 50 successful fetoscopic repairs as of October 2018, and at 25 weeks in utero performed the same surgery to stop Hudson’s brain from pulling further into his spinal cord. At 25 weeks, Hudson only weighed 1lb. Today, he weighs 7.5 lbs and is 20 inches long with the hope that he still might get the chance to walk someday with the help of physical therapy. Chase, Brooke and Hudson will be coming home to Florida this week to continue to provide the necessary care for him.

With faith I’ve seen some amazing things in my life. With hope I’ve seen news doors open. I believe every child deserves a chance to experience love, and my grandson will surprise everyone.”

Chris Strickland

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