by Copper Canyon Mayor Sue Tejml
John Brothers and 33-year-old daughter Tiffany Brothers – Battling ALS
John Brothers has lived in the Woodlands for 27 years. His two daughters Tiffany Brothers and Kelsie Brothers grew up in Copper Canyon. John has served as a Council Member, on P&Z, and on BOA. For years he also mowed our perimeter road rights-of-way at night on his huge mower with headlights lighting his way and headphones on listening to whatever?
John’s daytime job is as a commercial pilot and captain for 33 years with American Airlines. He trained other pilots in the American simulator at their headquarters south of DFW. Now he trains pilots and crew on the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner, flying nonstop to and from Dallas to China, Korea, Europe and other international destinations.
Tiffany Brothers begins New Career as an American Airlines Flight Attendant. Tiffany Brothers is John Brothers’ 33-year-old daughter. In November 2016 John and his wife Debbie Hitchcock Brothers, also an AA Flight Attendant, had the honor of pinning Tiffany’s wings at her graduation as a new American Airlines Flight Attendant! She loved her new career, which allowed her to continue her love of traveling and meeting new people. Tiffany is an outgoing, caring, happy, vibrant young woman. She has the best laugh and loves to make others smile. But, early this year Tiffany noticed that she was losing muscle strength.
Tiffany is Diagnosed with ALS in February 2018. Then, in February of this year Tiffany was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a motor neuron disease also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.) ALS is a global disease, a progressive wasting of a body’s muscles. There is no known cause. There is no known cure. While Tiffany continues to make the most of each day in true Tiffy fashion, and enjoy her life to the fullest, her diagnosis comes with a high cost. Funds for needed equipment to support her daily functions (i.e. slings and wheel chairs), medications, various treatments can be financially devastating for her family.
ALS is always fatal. Length of time between diagnosis and death varies. Tragically, Tiffany’s symptoms are progressing rapidly. It began with the onset of her limb muscles–-legs and arms – declining. By July, her leg muscles had so deteriorated that she could not walk. She was confined to a wheelchair for any mobility.
Tiffany Rides her Electric Wheelchair in Copper Canyon’s July 4th Parade. Three months ago, Tiffany told her Dad that she wanted to ride her power wheelchair in the Copper Canyon Fourth of July Parade. As a child, she had ridden her bicycle and always participated in the parade through her neighborhood streets on Independence Day. And, as she realistically told her Dad, “I may not be here next year.” So, John arranged for that to happen. And, a seated Tiffany piloted it by herself through the Woodlands streets, waving her American flag at all the neighbors who sat on lawn chairs to cheer the parade participants!
Afterwards, she came to Town Hall to partake of the traditional hot dogs and potato chips provided by the ladies of the Woodlands Women’s Club, with their husbands manning the hot dog grills despite the summer heat. And Tiffany did this with her usual beautiful smile and cheerful attitude!
In July Tiffany put the following post on her Facebook page: “Hello friends and family. Thank you to those of you who have been helping and supporting me these last few months. For those of you who don’t know yet, in February I was diagnosed with ALS…think ice bucket challenge. ALS varies from person to person, but mine has progressed more quickly than I hoped. In April I moved in with family and now require full time care. I am very grateful that I haven’t lost my ability to speak and that I still have some mobility. However, at this point my upper body is very weak and I can only walk with assistance. ALS is a devastating disease to the individual and their family, but we are handling it the best we can. Honestly, most of the time I’m happy and still find ways to have fun, be silly, and enjoy each day (especially when people come to visit). Even though I’m still young and certainly haven’t done everything I wanted, I feel fortunate and thankful for the opportunities, experiences, and adventures I’ve had. ALS isn’t keeping me from creating new memories and enjoying life.” Tiffany recently said, “ALS is better than a car wreck, ‘cause I can still visit with all my friends.” She said, “I can’t modify what’s happening to my body, but I can control how I feel about it.”
Tiffany received almost 200 replies from her Facebook post, most of them commenting on what a beautiful person she is, her radiant personality and smile, and the impact she has made in their lives.
Tiffany is now living with her mother Pam in Lewisville: Tiffany is now living with her mother Pam and her husband Rusty Long in their home in Lewisville. Pam is taking time away from her job to care for Tiffany, as her daughter requires 24-hour a day care at this point. Jan Beavers is a many year resident of Copper Canyon and longtime friend of Pam. Jan said “Pam’s loving, patient, do anything in the world to make Tiffany’s life better, approach is such an inspiration! Tiffany has such a loving supportive family! Her cousin Danni Decker Williams set up one of the GoFundMe pages and coordinated a fundraiser with Kendra Scott Jewelry in Allen…. Maternal grandmother Donna Spencer…also spends the majority of her time helping care for Tiffany. Her Dad John and his wife Debbie are spending countless hours caring for Tiffany and getting her excellent medical care.” Jan visits weekly with Tiffany and said Tiffany still has “a great attitude” and her smile is still “a shining star!”
Dad John Brothers took Tiffany to Mexico to culture her own stem cells. (A procedure that our Federal Drug Administration – FDA – is considering, but does not yet legally allow in the USA.) They went back two months ago and flooded Tiffany’s body with 7 million of her own stem cells. The stem cells will not halt the progression of ALS, but they may improve her “quality of life.” John said Tiffany’s normally very thin and fragile veins noticeably improved after her stem cell implant. The improved veins also helped with her IVs of glutathione. And the stem cells may help her immune system and her damaged liver to function better. They will go back to Mexico in three weeks and repeat the flood of her own cultured stem cells into her body, a body struggling to survive the increasing debilitating effect of ALS on all her muscles.
But today Tiffany can no longer walk or use her arms. She requires 24-hour care. A lift transports her from bed to wheelchair. (Her Dad John can easily pick up her slim body, but he is concerned that he might accidentally drop her. The lift is safer for moving her.) Her diaphragm is very weak, and her dad said her breathing capacity was only at 22% last week. A common cause of death from ALS is respiratory failure. Death by ALS is NOT for the faint of heart.
But Tiffany’s reaction to ALS is incredibly positive! She has a very active mind – but it is locked into a body whose muscles are cruelly unable to function. She appreciates what she can do today, because tomorrow she may not be able to do it. She told her dad John, “I’m glad I can still talk and communicate! I don’t need the use of my arms and legs for that!” But soon even her ability to talk will cease. So, before that happens, she will spend 16 intense hours recording her own voice in useful phrases. For instance, “I’m fine.” Or “I’m thirsty.” Or “Where are my dogs?” Or “I love you, scratch my ear!” Tiffany will communicate with an eye scanner. She will be able to select letters to form words. Or she can select one of her pre-recorded phrases in her own voice.
Fellow American Airlines Pilots establish GoFundMe account for Tiffany
Ken Karnes is also a former Copper Canyon Council Member and now also an American Airlines pilot of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. He came to Copper Canyon’s September 10th Council Meeting to tell us about a GoFundMe account that American pilots had set up to help a fellow American pilot and family cope with over $100,000 current medical expenses – above and beyond what insurance had already covered. You can find the link on the Town’s home page at its website coppercanyon-tx.org or at gofundme.com/tiffany-brothers-als-hope-fund.
November 3rd Dinner and Silent Auction in Lewisville to benefit Tiffany
Saturday, November 3rd Mark Hitchcock, brother of John Brothers’ wife Debbie Hitchcock Brothers, has organized a fundraiser from 7-11 p.m. for Tiffany at the Royal Affairs Ballroom, 140 E. Main Street, Lewisville, TX 75057 (in Old Town Lewisville). There will be a dinner, entertainment, cash bar, and silent auction. Contributions of any size are greatly appreciated. All proceeds go towards Tiffany’s medical supplies and treatments.
Tickets must be bought in advance. Individual tickets are $125, a table for 10 is $1,000, and a premium table for 10 is $2500. I asked Brothers what distinguished a “premium” table. In his usual very frank manner, John said, “I think just the title of ‘premium.’ He said his brother-in-law Mark wanted to handle everything about the fundraiser, so I could just concentrate on Tiffany’s round-the-clock care.”
Tickets can be purchased or cash donations or donations to the silent auction made by calling Mark Hitchcock or his wife Lea Hitchcock at 214-502-9273 or on the link eventbrite.com. Brothers said all donations and proceeds go into a Medical Trust for Tiffany. If any funds are left over, they will be donated to an ALS charity.
American Airlines Credit Union creates Medical Fund for Tiffany Brothers (Call 800-533-0035 to donate.) The credit Union said, ALS is “cruel and ruthless. It declares war on the body destroying motor systems on all levels and leaves its victim’s mind prisoner in a body that progressively stops functioning on its own.” American Airlines currently has two employees and two retirees fighting ALS.
John Brothers has a lifelong reputation for quietly volunteering his time to help others. He also has a reputation for stubborn independence for himself personally. But John recently told me he has learned one thing from Tiffany’s ongoing battle with ALS. “People are good. And they will help you, if you will just let them.”
Answer ALS is a non-profit set up by Steve Gleason, former football player for the New Orleans Saints who has ALS. Gleason organized a conference of global physicians who specialize in the treatment of ALS. They told him there was no known cause of ALS and no known cure. He told all the medical specialists “You are a failure in your field!” You work independently and do not collaborate! Answer ALS just last month created a giant database of 10,000 ALS patients. 100% of the money donated to Answer ALS goes to ALS research. All salaries of the charity’s administration are funded by other independent donations.
American is committed to give $1 million dollars to Answer ALS this year. On October 8th American Airlines is hosting a banquet at the Las Colinas Country Club and a golf tournament the next day. American hopes to raise $500,000 for ALS from the two events.
Steve Gleason can no longer speak and now communicates by eye scans. He said he would attend the October 8th ALS benefit unless his wife, who is 8 months pregnant, is delivering their baby! www.teamgleason.org, www.answerals.org
An ALS Association “walk” is also scheduled for October 20th in Addison. Tiffany is planning to again pilot her power wheelchair in this event – with family and friends trying to keep up with her. Come and join them if you can! web.alsa.org/site/TR?fr_id=13249