Morgan County Rural Electric Association Employees Rally Community Support for Teenager with Brain Tumor
The medical and emotional support at Children’s Hospital Colorado gives hope to 13-year-old Ben Mettlen and his family
In October 2018, then 11-year-old Ben Mettlen was like most kids growing up in Morgan County, Colorado. He liked sports, video games and exploring the backcountry near his house. That normalcy all changed one day Ben couldn’t shake a persistent, crippling headache that had been slowly building for weeks. This time it completely socked him. Ben’s not one to exaggerate pain.
“He’s a tough kid,” his mother Kristen Mettlen said, recalling the time he got five stitches in his hand without being numbed up. “He was holding his head and screaming, so we knew something was wrong.”
Ben’s father Randy took him to the local hospital, where ER doctors transported Ben by ambulance to Children’s Hospital Colorado for evaluation by a pediatric neurologist.
An MRI revealed Ben had a tumor between the second and third ventricular of his brain. The ventricular system is critically important to the normal functioning of the central nervous system.
“The pain he was experiencing was from fluid pressure on his brain,” Kristen said. It was dangerously serious. He was immediately scheduled for emergency surgery, where surgeons drilled a hole in his skull to drain the fluid and reduce swelling. Shocked and overwhelmed, the parents were put at ease by the compassion from the Children’s medical team.
“They were very warm and kind,” Kristen recalled following the 3 a.m. surgery. “We were sleep-deprived. It was all crazy and overwhelming. They were very comforting. I had four other kids at home to think about too.” Kristen and Randy slept on an air mattress beside their son’s hospital bed for the next three weeks.
Morgan County Rural Electric Association Employees Rally Around Family
It’s a tight-knit community surrounding Brush, Colorado, where Kristen graduated from high school. News traveled fast, and so did the community support. Friends, family, and neighbors rallied behind the Mettlens, including employees at Morgan County Rural Electric Association (MCREA).
“The Mettlens are an incredible family and Kristen has such a positive outlook on life, despite the challenges they’re facing,” said Jamie Plakorus, communication specialist at MCREA, who helped rally community support for the family.
A volunteer committee at MCREA manages an employee-driven community program that donates money, resources and time to worthy causes. Supporting Ben and his family has been especially rewarding. “It’s part of our cooperative spirit,” Jaime said. “Our employees take great pride in giving back to our membership.”
After Two Years of Medical Treatment, a Slow Road to Recovery
The location of Ben’s brain tumor makes removal too risky. Instead, he completed over a dozen chemotherapy treatments to reduce the swelling. The brain fluid is now drained to an empty cavity in his abdomen. Recent MRIs show the tumor is stable, but doctors will closely monitor him for the rest of his life. Still, continued brain pressure is impacting his cognitive development, making the typical challenges of being a 13-year-old that much harder.
Ben is sharing his journey on his “Ben the Awesome” personal Facebook blog. His enduring spirit is an inspiration to other young people.
Children’s Hospital Colorado has been there every step of the way. The team has made sure Ben has opportunities to spend time with kids facing similar health challenges. Counseling support has been extended to the parents and his four siblings, who also have an emotional impact to manage.
Kristen hopes that sharing Ben’s journey will encourage families to consider making a charitable gift to the hospital during the Alice Cares for Kids Radiothon on Feb. 10 and Feb. 11.
“The doctors and staff do a really good job of not just caring for the patient, but caring for the patient’s entire family,” Kristen said. “I could not have made it without their support.”
Tri-State is a not-for-profit cooperative of 45 members, including 42 member utility electric distribution cooperatives and public power districts in four states, that together deliver reliable, affordable and responsible power to more than a million electricity consumers across nearly 200,000 square miles of the West. For more information about Tri-State and our Responsible Energy Plan, visit www.tristate.coop.