Fisher House Was a Refuge for Military Family Struggling to Have a Family

June 5, 2018

When Brayden and Deklin were born they weighed 2 ½ pounds – combined.  In fact, the doctors weighed them in grams on day two:  Brayden at just 400 grams and Deklin only a little bit heavier.

“It’s hard to believe,” said Army SSgt. Frank Wooten, the boys’ father, “but Brayden’s legs were smaller than my little finger. Their eyes were not even open yet.”

To illustrate just how tiny they were, Army Capt. Canndice Wooten, the boys’ mother, brought out a diaper like the ones they used in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). It wasn’t much bigger than a book of matches– it wouldn’t have fit a doll.  Even then it was too big for Brayden.

The twins were born January 26, 2011, and for the next 4 ½ months, Frank and Canndice lived a daily, and sometimes hourly, emotional roller coaster, never knowing if their boys would survive and then – if they did – would they ever be able to play baseball, read a book or dance?

“The doctors warned us from the beginning that we might have to say goodbye, at least to Brayden,” said Canndice.  “What helped more than anything was being able to stay at the Fisher House.  Having other people to talk to.  We were all struggling.  One person had cancer, one had hepatitis, and another had a baby in NICU like us.  It didn’t matter, we were there for each other.  I can’t tell you what that means – to know you are not alone.”

The Army had given both Canndice and Frank compassionate reassignments to Ft. Hood, the closest Army Base to Lackland Air Force Base, where the boys were hospitalized.   The Fisher House was their home and their refuge, allowing them to be just steps from their babies.

Canndice and Frank had first learned about Fisher House when Canndice was hospitalized after she lost her daughter during her second pregnancy before the twins were born. Frank was on deployment to Cuba. Her mother, Roxanne Brown, flew from Kansas to be with her.

“When I got the call, all I knew was I had to get to Ft. Hood, I didn’t know where I was going to stay,” said Canndice’s mother Roxanne Brown.  “I thought, oh my goodness, just get me to my daughter.  Canndice had lost a son earlier that year and now a daughter. Canndice was heartbroken, and we almost lost her, too.” The hospital staff recommended Roxanne stay at the nearby Fisher House.  

“I soon learned the Fisher House was a place of healing, a place where I could get a good night’s sleep and then just walk across the street and be there for my daughter. I didn’t even have to cook, food just showed up.  Bless God it was one of the best things ever.”

When Canndice woke up, she asked her mom how she got there, because she knew her mom didn’t drive. She was confused and concerned. “My mom said, ‘Don’t worry. I can walk here. I’m staying at Fisher House.’  It was the first time I’d ever heard Fisher House, but I knew it was a good thing.”

Currently stationed at Ft. Campbell, Canndice and Frank were married in 2003.  Their outstanding military careers include both being selected as Soldier of the Year at Ft. Hood, as well as both holding the Sgt. Audie Murphy award – a distinguished career award few soldiers ever receive.  Frank served in combat in Iraq in 2004, while Canndice was stationed at Honduras, and there were numerous other deployments.  

Still, there was something missing.  They wanted a child.  Even though they had lost two earlier babies at the end of complicated pregnancies, Canndice wanted to give it one more try.  This was the last chance and, lo and behold, it was twins.  The doctors warned that this pregnancy would be even harder than the earlier ones, but Canndice and Frank were determined to do all they could.

“I truly believe it was the miracle of modern medicine that kept my boys alive and the love we felt from our family at the NICU and our family at Fisher House that gave us strength to go on,” said Canndice through fresh tears.  “You just can’t imagine how indebted I am to Fisher House, for first giving my mom a home and then giving Frank and me a home at one of the most difficult times in our lives.”

Now four years old, Deklin and Brayden are energetic and loving.  They are obviously close and what one does, the other follows. Besides being born tiny and fragile, they came into the world with no hair at all, but their eyelashes now would be the envy of Cover Girl models.  Deklin will tell you his favorite thing to do is to read a book.  Turn on music and both of them begin dancing and laughing with glee. 

Deklin, who has a mild case of cerebral palsy, still wears leg braces half a day, but they don’t keep him from a rousing game of soccer with his brother or jumping on the trampoline.  In other words, Brayden and Deklin are thriving, active, vibrant little boys.  Determination, the miracle of modern medicine, and the love of their NICU and Fisher House families, have all coalesced to help create a happy, delightful American family.