WESTBROOK, Minnesota (STPNS) -- Ben Carson's campaign for president has given him national name recognition and support, but one family in Westbrook met the candidate professionally at Johns Hopkins Hospital nearly 15 years ago.

    Doug and Jill Kleeberger's daughter Hanna celebrated her 16th birthday last Sunday. There was a time when they had no assurance that she would grow into the active teen that she is today.

    When she was just 3 1/2 months old, baby Hanna began experiencing seizures. A few months later the neurologist who was seeing Hanna sent her to an epilepsy center in the Twin Cities. After trying three different medication treatments, one of which made her seizures worse, the conclusion was that Hanna had a structural abnormality. Because her left brain didn't develop correctly, her condition was declared a 1 in a million case.



    Removal of the left side of Hanna's brain would correct the problem. Since that side of the brain controls language, Hanna needed the surgery at a young age.

    Enter Dr. Ben Carson, neurolsurgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. The Kleebergers met the renowned brain surgeon just two days before surgery. It was providential that Carson had trained the neurologist in the Twin Cities who had been testing Hanna. Consequently, Carson was confident that the tests were accurate and more testing would not be needed.

    Jill told Carson before surgery, “A lot of people back home are praying.”

    “That's great. We need all the prayers we can get,” responded Dr. Carson.

    Jill said he is a soft-spoken, humble man.

    Doug and Jill said good-bye to Hanna at 7 a.m. While Dr. Carson was performing surgery to remove the left side of their 19-month-old little girl's brain, the Kleebergers spent a long day in the waiting room. They didn't see her again until 7 p.m. because bleeding issues slowed down the delicate surgical progress.

    “We weren't overly anxious,” said Jill. “We had a peace that this was the right course of action for Hanna. It helped knowing all the people who were praying.”

    Jill later made a scrapbook containing all the emails the family received, a list of the people who were praying and the 12 churches that were praying. Hanna has read the precious scrapbook.

    Hanna shares her family's faith. She has kept a prayer journal for a long time, and she said she prays a lot, especially when she's having difficulty doing something with her right hand.

    Since her left brain has been removed, Hanna has limited use of her right hand and leg, so she has braces for both. Her dad modified an adult 3-wheel bike so she can move around town quicker than when walking.

    Jill home schools Hanna and said that she is close to her grade level. One of her favorite subjects is life science, probably because she is interested in the human body. Hanna receives added help from Mary Ann Gross who works with her under the area Habilitative Services, Inc (HSI), which provides individual help for any type of disability.

        Mary Ann said that goals are set up once a year for Hanna. Then each month she fills out a report. Some goals, like gross and small motor skills, are ones that Hanna will be working on her entire life. During good weather, Hanna rides her 3-wheeler to Mary Ann's house where she may get help with her home work, put together a jigsaw puzzle or bake something in the kitchen.

    Cooking is the big goal for this year. Recently Hanna's home economics course project requires her to plan meals for a week. The planning includes writing out a grocery list and then going to the grocery store to purchase the products. If one ingredient, such as a fruit, is too expensive, she is instructed to make a substitution. The day Hanna shopped, she decided to substitute grapes that were on sale for the more expensive strawberries in her meal plans. The last step is paying for the groceries and handling change.

    Mary Ann has enjoyed working with Hanna the past 9 years. “She was 7 years old when I started. It has been amazing to watch her develop and learn to do new things. She has matured into a wonderful young lady.”

    When asked what she thought about her surgeon running for president, Hanna smiled as she replied, “ I think it's kind of interesting.”

    The next time you see this happy young lady riding around Westbrook on her 3-wheeler, offer a prayer to God for the wonders of medical science.