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From Novant Health: Defying the odds

A life-saving gift from a man who wasn’t supposed to live past the age of 5
A special story from Novant Health
A special story from Novant Health(Novant Health)
Updated: Apr. 29, 2020 at 4:00 PM EDT
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SALISBURY, N.C. (WBTV) - From Novant Health: When Bradley Hill was born, doctors told his family he wouldn’t live past the age of 5.

He was born with spina bifida, a condition that occurs when the spine and spinal cord do not form properly in the womb. At birth, he also had a cleft palate and lip and hydrocephalus, more commonly referred to as water on the brain. His prognosis, doctors said, wasn’t good.

Since then, he’s had over 75 surgeries. He has a shunt in his brain and a rod in his back. But he has defied the odds: On Sunday, April 26, 2020, he turned 19 years old.

“He’s the sweetest boy ever with the best outlook on life,” said Sarah Sweatt, Hill’s cousin and a professor in the Department of Nursing at Catawba College in Salisbury, N.C.

A motorized wheelchair takes him all over his family farm in Gold Hill, N.C. He loves to eat Frosties from Wendy’s and pureed bananas. He traveled to California to meet his idol, Steve Harvey. Last year, he graduated from high school, and his family hosted a big party, where he sang karaoke all night.

He’s the kind of guy who sings “Happy Birthday” — his favorite song — to total strangers when he learns it’s their special day. He’s also the kind of individual who donated his stockpile of medical supplies to help medical workers battling the COVID-19 crisis at Novant Health Rowan Medical Center.

“He likes helping people,” Sweatt said. “He was happy those supplies could be used instead of staying in storage.”

Although Hill has far surpassed expectations when it comes to his health, he still requires a great deal of medical care, so his family had large quantities of medical supplies on hand — some of which they knew they would not need and that would be better served protecting doctors and nurses on the front lines. The stockpile included boxes of sterile gloves and catheter kits that each contained a few pieces of personal protective equipment.

Sweatt also lives on the family farm, near Hill and his grandparents. She had already planned to deliver snacks to the nurses at Novant Health Rowan Medical Center in Salisbury — a gift coordinated through the Catawba College Nursing Department. When she learned about the contribution Hill wanted to make, she borrowed her husband’s truck and loaded it up with supplies, too.

“This pandemic is scary, and it’s overwhelming. I know a lot of the nurses working in the ICU and the COVID-19 units who are staying in campers, so they don’t expose their family members,” Sweatt said. “I have coworkers and friends who are on the front lines, and it’s got to be very difficult.”

Donations of personal protective equipment, like what Hill and his family were able to provide, make it easier for these front-line heroes to continue that work, while keeping themselves and their families safe. That’s what prompted Hill to act.

Apart from the donation, the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t changed life all that much for Hill. Given some pre-existing lung issues and a compromised immune system, he is considered “high risk,” so even under normal circumstances, he does not leave home often. He prefers to spend his days on the family farm, riding around in his grandfather’s truck or on the John Deere Gator. He collects keys to everything, all gathered in a gallon plastic bag, and can tell you what each one opens just by looking at it. His entire extended family lives on the same 200 acres of land — people in the community call it Hill Farm — where there are four ponds, goats and chickens to tend to, and no shortage of vehicles to ride around in.

Still, there are things he’s looking forward to on the other side of the pandemic.

“He can’t wait to go to church. Our church has probably 80 members. He’ll come down the aisle and light the candles. He used to sing in church,” Sweatt said, turning her attention to Hill. “I haven’t heard you sing lately, though. That’s going to be first on your list.”

He does have one outing to look forward to in the near future. Sweatt recently brought one of the family’s horses to a local nursing home and walked it through the parking lot as part of a parade of cars full of families trying to bring some joy to the residents.

“There were cars honking everywhere, and the residents were very grateful,” Sweatt said. “I told Bradley I’m going to take him next time I go.”

Bradley Hill is one of so many generous people who have heard the call to support our healthcare workers and responded. You can make an impact, too, by making a gift to the Novant Health COVID-19 Disaster Relief Fund. Contributions to that fund allow us to provide everything from financial assistance to life-saving personal protective equipment to our workers on the front lines, and every dollar counts.

To learn more and make a gift today, visit SupportNovantHealth.org/coronavirus.

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