Braylin McMullen had organ damage and needed a kidney transplant, ultimately proving what a warrior she is
Braylin McMullen of Wheatland was just 3 years old when her kidneys started failing. Complications from E. coli landed her in the Pediatric and Cardiac Intensive Care Unit at UC Davis Children’s Hospital in 2018.
“We’re not sure where Braylin got E. coli,” said Megan McMullen, Braylin’s mom. “But what we are sure of is what a fighter Braylin is.”
We’re not sure where Braylin got E. coli, but what we are sure of is what a fighter Braylin is.”
Fast forward and this now 8-year-old fighter is representing Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals (CMN), having been named the 2023 CMN champion for UC Davis Children’s Hospital.
“Braylin has been through so much, but both she and her mom have such a positive attitude,” said Michelle Tafoya, program director of Children’s Miracle Network at UC Davis. “When we approached the family about representing CMN at UC Davis this year, they could not have been more willing.”
CMN Hospitals across the U.S. and Canada identify a “champion” in their local community to represent kids treated at the local children's hospital. As the face of CMN at UC Davis for 2023, Braylin and her family will support campaigns that benefit UC Davis Children’s Hospital, the only CMN Hospital in the area.
“Before Braylin was named the CMN Champion child, the McMullens were already visiting corporate partners to show their support. They know firsthand what it’s like to have a team like CMN and UC Davis Children’s Hospital behind them.”
Before Braylin was named our CMN champion child, the McMullens were already visiting corporate partners to show their support. They know firsthand what it’s like to have a team like CMN and UC Davis Children’s Hospital behind them.”
From bad to worse: Cue the miracles
After her initial E. coli diagnosis, Braylin spent months recovering from kidney and pancreas damage, having her large intestine removed and coping with a new Type 1 diabetes diagnosis. It was a lot for this little girl and her single mom to handle.
When Braylin was finally released from the hospital, she still faced life-threatening risks: she needed three hemodialysis treatments every week just to stay alive. That meant the family had to travel an hour each way to UC Davis Children’s Hospital for the three-hour treatment.
Braylin underwent pokes and dressing changes, all the while having to sit still for hours. It was a lot to ask of a preschooler. She would draw, create art, watch cartoons and chat with her nurses to pass the time.
“Thanks to the amazing staff at UC Davis Children’s Hospital — including the Child Life and Creative Arts Therapy team — Braylin remained cooperative and happy,” McMullen said. “This environment and the care she was given enabled her to keep fighting.”
Thanks to the amazing staff at UC Davis Children’s Hospital - including the Child Life and Creative Arts Therapy team - Braylin remained cooperative and happy. This environment and the care she was given enabled her to keep fighting.”
This routine was complicated when Megan had to resign from her job to keep up with Braylin’s full-time medical needs. The McMullens needed another miracle … and they got one.
The lifesaving help continues
A new, outpatient peritoneal dialysis program had opened at UC Davis Children’s Hospital. This meant Braylin could get treatment from home, a service not typically available to children. The outpatient peritoneal dialysis program is the only one in inland Northern California for patients under 10 years of age or 44 pounds.
Peritoneal dialysis is also a bridge to kidney transplant, the ultimate goal for pediatric patients. UC Davis Children’s Hospital had the capability to do the transplant surgery, but Braylin needed a kidney.
Living donor and UC Davis team up to give Braylin the ultimate gift
Braylin had been through so much already, so Megan McMullen did what many people do to spread the word: She posted on social media. Multiple people responded to this mom’s desperate plea on Facebook. If they were a match to Braylin, it would be yet another miracle. The McMullens had new hope.
Thanks to an incredibly generous woman in the community, Braylin and her family got their wish: a new kidney … and a built-in “kidney buddy” for life. Utilizing the expertise of UC Davis Children’s Hospital, Braylin underwent kidney transplant surgery in December of 2019 at the UC Davis Children’s Surgery Center. It was a success. She would no longer need dialysis and could cut down on her extensive medications.
“Braylin’s surgery went exceptionally well. She recovered in the PICU and was soon acting like her usual spunky self,” said pediatric nephrologist, Lavjay Butani. “We are so grateful for the donors who, with their gift, make such miracles happen. And to everyone on the health care team who works so hard to ensure that children like Braylin can have as normal a life as possible, thank you.”
We are so grateful for the donors who, with their gifts, make such miracles happen. And to everyone on the health care team who works so hard to ensure that children like Braylin can have as normal a life as possible, thank you.”
Children’s Miracle Network champion continues to earn the title
Once discharged from the hospital, Braylin continued on her type 1 diabetes journey with insulin injections — more than 120 each month — as well as finger pokes to check her blood sugar. But thanks to the UC Davis pediatric endocrinology team, Braylin transitioned to an electronic device attached to her arm, which reads her blood sugar every five minutes and sends alerts and information to the health care team connected to the system. The pump administers insulin throughout the day for constant regulation of her blood sugar.
Today, Braylin is an energetic 8 year old. A cheerleader, softball player and dancer who loves being with her friends and family, she has come a long way since her initial health challenges five years ago. Megan McMullen feels fortunate to have access to a nationally recognized children’s hospital in the CMN network that saved her daughter’s life … more than once.
“We are so excited to represent CMN at UC Davis,” McMullen said. “We can’t thank the donors and partners enough for supporting Braylin and kids like her. We want to express our gratitude any way we can.”
UC Davis Children's Hospital is the Sacramento region's only nationally ranked, comprehensive hospital providing care for infants, children, adolescents and young adults with primary, subspecialty and critical care. It includes the Central Valley's only pediatric emergency department and level I pediatric trauma center, which offers the highest level of care for its critically ill patients, as well as a level I children’s surgery center. The 129-bed children's hospital includes the state-of-the-art 49-bed neonatal and 24-bed pediatric intensive care and pediatric cardiac intensive care units. For more information, visit children.ucdavis.edu.