A 2-year-old boy is experiencing a bout of early fame after his first Halloween costume went viral for all the right reasons.
The only difference between the Halloween costume of Brantley Morse, of Canton, Ohio, and the character who inspired it — the grumpy Carl from Disney/Pixar's Up — is that Brantley can't help but show off his contagious smile.
"Brantley truly does have to live a completely different lifestyle than most children," Brantley's mom, Brittany Morse, told Yahoo Lifestyle. "Although he spends many days a week at a hospital, or doctor's office or in some type of therapy, he is still able to put a smile on his face."
Brantley was born four months early at just one pound, 11 ounces, and now must deal with cerebral palsy, stage 3 kidney disease, chronic lung disease and a stomach disease called gastroparesis. The first nine months of his life were spent in the NICU at Akron Children's Hospital, after Brittany and her husband Steve were told their son had “little to no chance of surviving birth.” Then, just two weeks into his life, Brantley faced another horrifying ordeal: he had necrotizing enterocolitis, a serious bowel infection affecting mostly premature infants, and had to undergo emergency surgery; doctors said he had just a 50 percent chance of surviving.
"Our family handles these situations by leaning on each other and turning to God. We give it all to God, always," Brittany tells Yahoo Lifestyle. "We have an amazing support system and people who are always willing to step in and help us. People tell us all the time that we are strong for dealing with everything we go through, but to be honest, we’re just doing what we need to do for our family.
Brantley's first Halloween was spent in the NICU; when his second came around, his family was too nervous about participating.
"It’s scary when you have a child with a compromised immune system, because this time of year sickness is floating all around,” Brittany explains. “Brantley was still requiring oxygen on a daily basis at that point, so we knew his lungs just were not strong enough to fight anything off.”
In addition to raising Brantley and dealing with his ongoing medical struggles, Brittany and Steve are parents to a 10-year-old son, Jacob, and an 8-year-old daughter, Maddie; further, Brittany is pregnant with a fourth child, a daughter, who will soon make Brantley a big brother.
The Morse family aims to get through any hardships they face by always looking for the positive — which explains their joyous approach to Halloween this year.
Brittany says she knew that she wanted to incorporate her son's medical equipment into his costume, but wasn't sure how. So, she turned to Facebook, where many offered the suggestion of Carl from Up.
It made sense to her, as Brantley already had the glasses and the walker; after much searching, she was able to find the perfect small bowtie and cardigan. Then, with a couple of balloons tied to his walker, the ensemble was complete.
Brantley made his debut in the adorable costume at a fall festival last weekend, and the photo evidence has taken the internet by storm. Brantley even made the evening news.
"I don’t think I have fully processed how viral Brantley’s story has gone yet," Brittany says. "My husband and I have always tried to be open about our journey with Brantley, the good and the bad, in hopes that we can help someone else get through a hard time, or be able to relate. So to see Brantley’s story being shared nationwide, and to be contacted by so many news channels and people wanting to learn more, honestly means the world."
Since sharing the photos, the family has received many messages from complete strangers stating that Brantley had given them hope, restored their faith, or even put a smile on their face.
"That’s what it’s all about,” Brittany says. “We know others can relate, and we want them to know they’re not alone.”
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