This Little Girl Will Blow You Away

There’s nothing like a mother’s love to give you the strength you need. When Courtney and Evan Westlake found out they were expecting their second child, they were over the moon. Their son Connor was very excited to have a little sister, and the small family waited eagerly until the day that they would grow by one. However, when that day came, it wasn’t what anyone expected.

When little Brenna Westlake was born, she was covered in a viscous yellowish film, had sores all over her body, and was running a dangerously high fever. Doctors were not sure what was wrong with her initially, but they knew she needed intensive care right away to survive. They eventually diagnosed her with Harlequin ichthyosis, a disease that causes her skin to grow at about 14 times the normal rate. It’s incurable, and usually fatal. Courtney and Evan both knew that their new baby would require a lot of special attention and care, but they were willing to give her the best shot they could.

Each day they have to gently but firmly wipe away Brenna’s extra skin. She’s constantly peeling, which gives her a red, swollen look all the time, and her hair growth is limited by the disease. Courtney says the hardest part for both her and Brenna is the negative reaction of other people, not just children but also their parents. “When a child asks their parent why Brenna is red and swollen, why can’t they just be honest and answer, “I don’t know, but it’s not very important how someone looks. We’re all unique, right?” Still, Connor adores his little sister and Brenna’s parents are incredibly proud of her fighting spirit as well. If you’d like to learn more about Brenna or Harlequin ichthyosis, you can check out Courtney’s blog Blessed by Brenna, or her book A Different Beautiful.