Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A Faith So Bright

The Herald Journal did a story on Britt.   I thought I would put it on the blog for those that wanted to read it.               Written by: Lance Frazier           Photo's courteous of: Eli Lucero/Herald Journal
Britten's odyssey:  Faith and miracles

When Britten Schenk tells the audience at a Hyrum fireside that “I’m so thankful that I am here,” it’s more than a figure of speech.

After being hit by a bus on March 16, 2012, while serving an LDS mission in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Britten has spent the last 18 months recovering from a traumatic brain injury. During that year and a half he has had to learn to talk all over again as he dealt with the frustrations of memory loss, and he still suffers daily bouts of nausea, nerve pain in one foot and headaches brought on by the titanium plate in his skull.
Through it all, Britten has remained remarkably upbeat, stunning family, friends and therapists with his swift recovery and his knack for putting others at ease.
“This is where Britten is so great — he jokes about his accident,” says Trevor Frank, a pal of Britten’s since their days at Mountain Crest High School and now a student at Utah State University. “Somebody asked him, ‘Have you been on a date?’ And he said, ‘Of course not, you know why?  I
 got hit by a bus!’”
To watch Britten casually navigate the campus at USU, where he is again taking classes, or to hear him chat with friends, one would never guess that doctors originally told Britten’s parents that he wouldn’t live. But the fact that the 22-year-old looks so normal masks the enormity of the challenges he still faces. In a speech therapy session in mid-September, Britten struggles to come up with the word connected to these three words: beverage, white, cow. He finally works his way around to “milk,” but it takes 15 seconds. The next word, “pillow,” he gets immediately after hearing the clues soft, head and sleep. But that is the nature of traumatic brain injuries and aphasia, where one’s language memory bank is basically wiped clean and has to be rebuilt one word at a time.
“Everybody thinks he’s great, he’s better, but they have no idea of the struggles he faces,” says Britten’s mother, Karla Schenk.


The accident
“Britten Schenk was living his dream,” Karla says at a fireside in Hyrum on a recent Sunday. In spite of enduring the usual frustrations that missionaries encounter, his letters to home were full of positive thoughts about Brazil and his spiritual service. On Oct. 31, 2011, he wrote about the difficulties he and his companion were facing, noting that they were “bummed out because we had been working so hard and good these last three weeks ... and then everything went wrong.” The letter went on to observe that trials are put in our lives to “make us rise just a little higher, do just a little better,” and that they “shape who we are.”
The letter includes a well-known quote: “Just as a gem cannot be polished without friction, a man cannot be perfected without trials.” To this day Karla wonders if the letter wasn’t a foreshadowing of things to come.
Britten was about 21 months into his mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, three months from returning home, when he and his companion prepared to cross a busy street in Sao Paulo, the ninth-largest city in the world. With their view blocked by a large post, his companion hung back as Britten stepped into the street. A bus traveling at an estimated 30 mph struck Britten solidly on the left side of his head.
Taken to a nearby hospital, Britten lapsed into a coma as his parents, Steven and Karla, scrambled to catch a flight to Sao Paulo. The news they received when they arrived at the hospital was not good. “There’s nothing we can do for him. He will not survive,” one doctor pronounced. Surgeons had removed the left side of Britten’s skull to release pressure from swelling, and no blood or oxygen were getting to his brain.
“We were going to the hospital to tell Britten goodbye,” Karla says.
At the hospital she frantically searched for her son but couldn’t find him among the handful of patients on that unit. The staff had to direct her back to one of the rooms she had checked, where Britten lay, his swollen head shaved, a gigantic zipper of a scar tracing the side of his skull, tubes running into his mouth, face battered beyond recognition. Nevertheless, Karla says, “When we found him and held his hand, it was a great reunion.”
The next day the medical staff reported that some blood was flowing to his brain and upgraded their forecast to a chance of survival, but little chance of regaining function. Soon after that Steven and Karla spoke to Britten’s peers at a mission conference, passing along the assurance they felt they’d received: Britten would be OK. They stayed in Brazil for a month and had what Karla calls “many discouraging days in the hospital” as Britten, once he woke from the coma, battled pneumonia, fevers as high as 106 degrees and diabetes insipidis. About a month later he was cleared to return to the United States, and was transferred to Salt Lake City in a private jet with full medical crew.
Coming home
The time he spent at University of Utah Hospital was, Britten says, “The worst two months ever.”
Along with six or seven needle pokes daily, he dealt with spells and seizures related to the titanium plate in his head. He had not spoken before arriving in the United States, but was soon able to greet visitors, and now began speech therapy at the most basic level. In a video of those early sessions, Britten lays in bed, holding a pencil and paper, as the therapist tries to get him to repeat “Ohio.” Britten mumbles something that sounds like “Olaska,” able to access the portion of his brain related to states but unable to select the right one. Instead of giving up, though, he asks the therapist to say it again. She switches to “Oklahoma,” which Britten is able to say. As if a door has been unlocked, he then blurts out “Ohio.”
It’s one tiny example of the countless steps in the process of re-learning language. (Of course the Portuguese, which he once spoke so well that he was mistaken for a native, was also wiped out. Today he says “about half” of that vocabulary has returned, but without the fluency of pronunciation he once owned.)
Along the way, the list of what the family considered to be miracles lengthened. Surgeries had been expected on the multiple small bones that had been broken or displaced in Britten’s face. Amazingly, they healed on their own and returned to their proper positions. Another surgery was on tap to correct the 40 percent hearing loss he suffered after the accident. Two months later, his hearing tested normal. One neuroopthomologist examined one of Britten’s MRIs not long after the accident and said, “When I look at your MRI, I can’t even see how you’re walking or talking.”
“Britten has had many miracles happen in his life,” Karla says. “The Lord has a plan for Britten.”
Karla says that in those early days the joy of seeing Britten alive was tempered by the step-by-step revelations of how serious his injuries were.
“We came to the realization that he was blind (early on),” she says. “Then it was, give me a day or two to adjust, and you pick yourself up and move on.”
Finally, by the end of May, Britten was cleared to return home to Hyde Park. The family continued to come to terms with his limitations, which included severe damage to his eyes. Although he has experienced some improvement in sight in his left eye, the nerves in his right eye were severed and he has no sight on that side. In that left eye, which also experienced nerve damage, about half remains dark, while one fourth has some limited vision, and the “good” quarter has 20/60 vision. His peripheral vision remains so limited that he is unable to qualify for a drivers’ license.
“I could tell it was getting better because I could start seeing my fingernails,” Britten says. “Now I can see details of my fingernails, and the hair on my arm.”
Sight restrictions haven’t kept Britten from staying actively involved in sports, one of his loves during high school, when he carried 165 pounds on his 6-foot-2 frame as a champion swimmer. (After the accident he lost 50 pounds. He now weighs about 145.) He plays volleyball once or twice a week, and his quick reflexes and soft hands reflect the athleticism that made him an excellent basketball player. It speaks to his courage that, with what is essentially tunnel vision, he is willing to step onto a volleyball court and face sizzling spikes.

During the past year Britten has attended speech therapy several times a week, first working with Kathy Gantz at Logan Regional Hospital, usually accompanied by his mother or grandfather. As Steven works with his construction business, Karla has been Britten’s near-constant companion. As Britten has become an in-demand public speaker, together they have made the rounds, including a visit to a juvenile lockdown facility in Provo where Britten spoke a couple of months ago. After his presentation, says Karla, many of the boys “lined up to hug him and shake his hand,” while others quickly left the room. Then those who had left returned, carrying pencils and paper, asking for Britten’s autograph. “Half of them were crying,” Karla adds. “It was pretty awesome.” Not long after, Britten began to receive letters from those young men. One gave his thanks for “helping me feel that I can have faith again.” Another said he planned to be baptized into the LDS Church when he returned home to Nova Scotia.
The Schenks stayed in touch with one of Britten’s neurosurgeons at Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein in Brazil, Dr. Guilherme Carvalhal Ribas. When they emailed to inform him that Britten had returned home safely, Ribas replied that staff members were still talking about his recovery. “I comment to my friends that we usually see one or two miracles per year among the patients we take care (of),” he wrote. “Britten is definitely one of them!”
Road to recovery
Traumatic brain injuries are notoriously fickle. According to, while post-TBI physical impairments can hinder functional independence, the behavioral, cognitive, emotional, psychosocial and personality changes associated with TBI frequently lead to even greater problems. In other words, re-learning to speak is tough enough, but most victims of brain injury suffer other, serious side effects. Many people dip into major depression or mood swings, and doctors have a hard time predicting how each situation will play out. Very often the person becomes despondent or experiences bouts of rage.
Among TBIs, Britten’s has to rank among the most serious, which makes it all the more amazing, those around him say, that he is more or less the same person he was before the accident.
“His personality is the same, he’s the same funny kid,” says Britten’s high school buddy Frank.

That hasn’t been easy, according to Britten, who says he gets frustrated and angry more quickly now. Staying positive, he says, “has been really hard, probably harder than before. With me, I did learn a lot in my youth — attitude is everything.”
One story that sticks with Britten is something his mom told a girls basketball team she was coaching. Undefeated to that point in the season, the team came into halftime of a particular game trailing by a wide margin. With Britten listening from the side, Karla told the girls the story of a successful businessman. When people asked the secret of his success, he told them, “Each morning, I have two choices: Am I going to have a good day or a bad day? I always choose to have a good day.” Then, during a robbery, the businessman was shot in the head. He survived, and somehow so did his bright outlook. When people asked him how he coped with the injury, he told them the same thing: “Each morning, I have two choices: Am I going to have a good day or a bad day? I always choose to have a good day.” (Karla’s players, too, were motivated, and came back to win the game.)
“I’ve been kind of doing that with my life, especially the last year and a half,” Britten says. “But it is hard with the TBI; now I have to think before I talk.”
Since they spend so much time together doing homework and attending speech therapy, Britten says, the easy target when he does lose his temper is the person closest to him: Karla.
“I have trouble seeing and I can’t talk as good as I want, and I get really frustrated with that,” he says. “It’s just my brain that makes me get mad and yell, and then I feel bad and tell her I’m sorry.”
For her part, Karla says it has helped that she understood the nature of brain injuries and was told to expect some outbursts. “That’s not him — he’s never raised his voice to me in his life until now,” she says. “But he’s learning to control that, and I’m so glad I’m here to help him work through it.”
The aphasia has made school a tremendous challenge for Britten, even though it had no impact on his intelligence. The problem is simply retrieving words. Britten’s grandfather, Val Andreasen of Providence, remembers his grandson being asked what color the grass was soon after the accident. He could write the word “green” but couldn’t say it. Now imagine trying to write a college-level essay without a full range of vocabulary.
This is where Britten’s rare work ethic pays off, according to Debbie Amundson, clinical supervisor of Speech-Language Pathology in Communicative Disorders and Deaf Education at USU. Amundson has worked with Britten for over a year and says he “pretty much shows progress every visit.”
His verbal expression has improved quickly, and the goal in his weekly sessions now is to “transfer that into writing.” Amundson said that re-learning after aphasia isn’t as easy as simply hearing and immediately “recovering” lost words. Usually it takes multiple repetitions to lodge a word firmly in the memory bank, although she says with Britten, “It’s amazing how often he can hear something once and have it.” His injury impacted his ability to write, to speak, to listen and to read, she notes.
“The thing that’s so amazing about Britten is how he’s so open and willing,” Amundson says, noting that most TBI patients have to be prodded. “He’ll ask for help. ... I never have seen such a worker as he is.”
So impressed was Amundson with Britten’s progress that she nominated him to be the ambassador for Utah’s Speech-Language Hearing Association. He accepted that position, which has led to yet more public speaking.
During a recent speech session, as Britten works with a student instructor, Amundson watches from an observation room, taking notes on both teacher and pupil. The instructor asks Britten to define “synonym.” He answers, “A word that means the same as another word.” Watching intently, Amundson makes a fist and quietly exclaims, “Good job, Britt!”
When Dr. Lisa Milman, a professor in speech-language pathology at USU, met Britten she assumed that “something very mild had happened to him” because he communicated so well. In 20 years in the field, she says, “I don’t know that I’ve found anyone as inspiring as Britten. He has succeeded in so many goals.”
Speech therapy is expensive, with some sessions at the hospital costing $180 an hour, so friends organized a fundraising 5K event last summer. Britten’s Run was held Aug. 18, 2012, and the community turned out in droves. Others made donations that may have been small financially but were gigantic spiritually. On the family blog,, Karla tells the story a young woman in their ward who put together a bake sale to raise money for Britten’s care. Then there were the two neighbor boys who came to the house one evening. They gave Britten a handful of grubby bills and said, “We made these braided wrist bands and sold them at school, so we could raise money to help you pay for your therapies.”
Where it all started
Britten grew up in Bancroft, Idaho, the second of four boys. (His older brother, Logan, and his wife Lora live in North Logan. Canon is a senior at Mountain Crest, and Jaxon is a 7th-grader at Cedar Ridge Middle School.) As a grade-schooler Britten struggled, and he was diagnosed with ADHD in third grade. In 7th grade his first-semester report card was filled with F’s. Knowing he had to improve, Britten forced himself to do his homework before texting friends.
Eight years ago the Schenks moved to Nibley (they now live in Hyde Park). Along the way Britten became such a good student that he graduated from Mountain Crest with a 3.9 GPA and 28 college credits under his belt.
Britten loved being outdoors, playing ball and hanging out with friends. As a 5-foot-5 sophomore he feared he wouldn’t be able to make the basketball team at Mountain Crest, so he went out for swimming. He made the team but was relegated to the 6th (slowest) lane. A couple of months later basketball tryouts began and Britten decided to try out after all. He would go to a two-hour swim practice and then hustle to the gym for tryouts. He made it to the final cut and realized he might have a conflict between the two sports, so he went to the basketball coach and told him he was also swimming. Britten was cut on the final day of tryouts.
That didn’t mean the end of basketball.  He and some buddies put together a rec league team they dubbed the Cyclones, and the members of that team are close to this day.

Meanwhile, in the pool, Britten moved up lane by lane, becoming a captain as a junior. As a senior he finished fourth at state in the backstroke and was part of a state champion relay team.

Tyson Jergenson, a fellow Cyclone now studying at BYU, says he met Britten at church when both were high school sophomores, “and we’ve been really good friends ever since.”
Some of the Cyclones would sneak out to toilet paper the neighbors’ house, or skip school to go cliff diving at Hyrum Dam, Jergenson recalls. “Just a bunch of random, harmless things. But mostly we just played a ton of basketball.”
One summer Britten arranged for four of them to go to Grace to check out his old stomping grounds. They loaded 4-wheelers and headed out to camp, arriving after dark in a clearing, where they set up tents. In the morning they found themselves in a pasture pocked with cowpies, the tents smeared with manure. Then they went to “shoot the flume,” floating down an irrigation canal, only to encounter water so low they were soon covered in leeches. Such a disastrous weekend couldn’t help but become a treasured memory.
“Everything went wrong but it was a super-good time,” Jergenson says.
Frank, another Cyclone, remembers going on group dates with Britten that “were always fun because we’d have these side conversations where we joked around and laughed.”
“Britten was a very upbeat, happy-go-lucky kid,” Frank adds. “He was always smiling, very personable. He loved people and wanted to know how they’re doing. Whenever I’d have a bad day he’d help me get out of my rut. That’s one of the things that attracted me to him as a friend — he can lift up others.”
Britten smiles when he talks about the seven Cyclones, whose mothers met monthly while they were on their missions to update one another on their sons’ progress.
“The best thing was just being with each other,” he says. “We could talk about anything. We were basically brothers.”
Britten counts himself lucky because he stills enjoys 4-wheeling, going to dances and being outdoors: “I think I’m blessed because a lot of people (with a TBI), the things they like to do change, but I still love the same things.”
After high school Britten enrolled at USU for a year and took pre-med classes, planning to become a dentist. Only one general class remains for him — English 2010, which he is taking now.
When he accepted his mission call in early 2010, it fulfilled a lifelong goal.
The future
Since last month, Britten has lived in an apartment on Darwin Ave. with four roommates. His classload at USU includes a guitar class, an LDS Institute class, regular speech sessions and that English 2010 class. He was taking a careers course at the beginning of the semester, but had to drop that one after the writing demands became too great.
It’s all part of Britten figuring out how much he can handle as a student. A few weeks ago, reading a single page from his English text took 40 minutes, and he was reading about 50 words a minute. By late September he was reading 90 words per minute. It’s too soon to say whether that will be enough for him to thrive at a college level.
One of his goals right now is to settle on a career. Weighing factors such as work atmosphere and family time, he has tentatively narrowed his interests to coaching, working in a parks and recreation department, and physical therapy. He considered speech therapy but reasons that his physical endurance is greater than his mental endurance right now, and speech therapy is mentally fatiguing.
“I just love doing stuff like that,” he says of physical therapy, “and I also love anatomy.”
His own physical recovery, which started with learning to walk with support and progressed to agility work with Nick Smith at the Sports Academy and Racquet Club and appointments with medical specialists in spine, throat, stomach, neurology, vision and digestion, is still ongoing.
The closest thing he has to a job now is traveling the public speaker circuit, although that doesn’t generate income. Still, he enjoys the presentations and the effect he has on others.
“I like doing those (presentations) because it makes me feel like I’m still on my mission,” he says.
Then there is the social component. Although Britten is very comfortable socially — during a recent lunch at the USU cafeteria he easily struck up a conversation with the student sitting next to him — his demanding schedule makes it hard to find the time and energy to pursue girls.
“All my friends are getting married and dating, and I have to stay home and study,” he says. “It’s been really hard. ... I focus on the good, and all the blessings and miracles.”
His father, Steven, says “what makes Britten truly remarkable is his relationship from an early age with Jesus Christ.”
“I feel like I’ve seen the help I’ve had from God,” Britten says. “I definitely pray and ask for the help I need. I know I can’t do anything by myself, I need help from friends, my mom and dad.”
At the same time, he says, he knows he can’t “just wait for God,” but needs to do the best he can each day.
With a TBI, he says, “you gotta go with it. You don’t like the changes, but ... .”
Considering all her son has already overcome, Karla says, “I feel he was prepared in every possible way for this challenge — physically, emotionally and spiritually.”
Britten stays other-focused — he’s thrilled for his brother Canon’s upcoming senior season on the Mountain Crest basketball team — and patiently works on his recovery, once again moving up one lane at a time.
“I know every person in the world has agency, and I can do what I want to do,” he says. “Of course with the TBI it’s a hundred times harder. But we can get the strength we need to change bad things and do the positive things. I think God has a plan for me and that’s why I was allowed to stay on this earth.”


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A Privelage to Share My Story

Since the USHA Conference, Britten has had the privilege to speak at many functions, including firesides.  His most memorable and touching experience is when he talked at a "lock down facility" for boys. 
This facility was for troubled boys who have had a very difficult and trying childhood.  Britten was asked if he would come and share "his story" and give hope and encouragement to these young boys.  But...He was told that he couldn't talk about his religion or mention Jesus Christ.  He could talk about a higher being, but he could not talk about Christ.
We feel the Lords hand in everything we do, as we were thrilled when they (the facility) allowed us to show a short video of Britten's recovery.  The video included Britten on his mission, individuals he had baptized (with a picture of Jesus Christ in the background), missionary companions, while church music played in the background.
The spirit that was felt that afternoon was sweet and moved many to tears as Britt gave hope and encouragement to all that was there.
The Boys were drawn to Britt, an individual they didn't know, but they felt a connection with him because of the challenges and trials he was overcoming himself.  His message of "shake it off, take a step up and don't give up" was encouraging to them.
Britt explained, "Life is going to shovel dirt on us...all kinds of dirt.  The trick to getting out of the deep hole is to "shake it off, and take a step up".  Each one of our troubles and challenges are stepping stones.  We can get out of the deepest hole...just by not stopping....never giving up.  Shake it off and take a step up.  Attitude is everything!
Afterwards many boys came up to Britten, and they were thrilled as Britten gave them all high-fives, handshakes and hugs.  Soon more boys were lining up the aisle with pen and paper in hand to get Britten's autograph.   Britten, myself, teachers and administrators all smiled at the sight we witnessed.  Britten had touched these boys in a way that they felt like there was hope for them and they were loved.
As we left the facility that day, Britten looked at me and said, " I know now what Heavenly Father wants me to do with my life.  He wants me to give people hope and encouragement and let them know, if I can do it, so can you!"   A feeling of accomplishment and joy filled both our souls.

Therapist's who know about aphasia and the difficultly of one speaking in public, are inspired at how well Britten speaks.  We are all amazed at his fluency, his sincerity, his sense of humor, and how well he can carry his train of thought.  It truly is a blessing!
What others don't realize is, that he has to practice for hours and hours to memorize what he is saying.  He has to prepare himself and practice, practice, practice.  BUT...It is so rewarding for him.

Two weeks after speaking at the lock down facility, Britt received a big envelope in the mail containing letters from many of these boys. Britt was thrilled as he opened them and read each one individually.
"You have inspired me to expand my beliefs and learn to appreciate the gift of living, as well as what the Father has done for us.  I want to thank you for showing me that it is okay to trust, as well as being a forgiving person.  You have taught me to see the light at the end of the tunnel and have faith in others."
Britten, "I learned a lot from your story including how to forgive.  When I return home, I plan to be baptized into the LDS church.  Your story just reconfirmed my faith."
Thank You!

Britten has accepted his "new life" and has found happiness in it.  He finds happiness everyday as he lives his life the best he can, and share's that same happiness with all those around him.
Pres. Uchdorf said, "Happiness is the destination, but it is also the path".
Britten shares this quote at fireside's and testifies that he knows this statement is true. He has been able to find happiness despite all the challenges he has had.

When we arrived in Brazil on March 20, 2012, we were told that Britten wouldn't survive, there was nothing they could do for him.  But through divine intervention, acknowledged by doctors and most of those involved, we witnessed a miracle!
For Steven and I, it was as if the Lord said, "Elder Schenk, take up they bed and walk...thou hast unfinished work to do."
We are grateful that Britten has been able to carry on the work that he so loves, and lift those around him as he shares his story of  hard work, determination, positive attitude, hope, faith and miracles.
We feel it has been our privilege as a family, and also our responsibility, to share Britten's story and testify of the miracles. 
We know that He lives!  He loves all of us!  He hears and answers all our prayers, in His own time and way!  We are so grateful to Him for His Infinite Mercy and Miracles in Britten's behalf.
Steven & Karla

Saturday, September 28, 2013

A Monumental Step!

On Aug. 22, 2013, anticipation and excitement filled the air as Britten moved from home and up on campus at Utah State University. A monumental step in his 18 month recovery!

I experienced some of the same feelings that day as when I sent my 1st child off to school.  What an exciting process it was, as we shopped for clothes, school supplies, and met the new teachers, with the anticipation of the 1st day of school!
With little sleep the night before, he was so excited to think that he would see his friends everyday,  he would make "new friends" and he would study, learn and progress.
As butterflies swirled in my stomach, I watched as my child stood, anxiously waiting for the bus.
When the bus approached He turned around and with a radiate smile, he waived goodbye and bounded on the bus ready for his new adventure.  I stood there with mixed emotions, not sure whether to smile or cry.   As I waved goodbye, I was choked up with tears.  Tears of joy for his exciting new future that lay ahead, but also, tears of sorrow not wanting to let go.  
Thoughts race through my mind as I question if he is prepared for this next step?  will he be safe... what if he gets hurt...will he be accepted by his peers?  It is so hard letting go after you have had him in your constant care, teaching, nurturing and protecting him, and caring for his every need.

As tears are rolling down my cheeks, these same emotions consume my entire being, as I know it is time.  Time to let go.  Time to let Britten go and spread his wings...and progress in his "New Life".
Yes, I am a little nervous...But I also know that I have to trust. Trust an all-knowing God to Britten's unknown future.

This past year Britten has dedicated himself to speech therapy everyday as he continues learning to read and write while he still deals with nausea every morning.  Sometimes the speech therapy and doctor appointments seem never ending.
It is crazy to think that one year ago Britten started with the process of re-learning everything, like people names, places and things.  He lost every one's name including his own family and friends.  He knows who you are when he see's you, he just lost everyone's name.  
He lost every word, that we started learning from the time we were born such as; names of animals, birds, fish, flowers, trees, vegetables, meats, and every type of food.  He lost the words that are associated with our body like arms, legs, tongue, wrist, elbow, knee, Britten has had to learn all over again.  Learning names of Cities, Capitals, States and Countries; names of occupations like policeman, fireman, farmer and objects like rake, shovel, hammer, watch, blow dryer have been part of his daily routine.

Recently we were doing some yard work and I asked him to get the broom for me so I could sweep the grass of the sidewalk.  He brought me a rake.  Well.. we had a good laugh. The rake didn't quite do the job. It is crazy to think that he has had to learn so many words that is part of our everyday vocabulary for us to be able to communicate but he is succeeding! 

This summer Britten went on a trip with his Uncle Ryan to Chicago. Ryan had business meetings in the morning, so he told Britt that he could go down to the convienent store and get something to eat til he got back.  Britt asked, "what's a convienent store?"  Ryan chuckled and said, "a store like Maverik, 7-11".
When Ryan related this story to us, we laughed and said, "You mean we haven't used that word yet?"            
  Recently we made a trip to the Bank and terms like,  "line of credit, credit card, interest, minimum payment" were all new terms to him.   So many, many words to learn and then to retain.  Besides learning the words, its learning how to spell them.  Then its learning how put those words with correct grammar to make a sentence and then paragraph.

Can you imagine sitting down in a restaurant and not knowing what one thing is on the menu?  It's like going to a foreign country, not speaking their language and being expected to look at the menu and then order your meal.  Well, that's how it has been for Britt.  We would have to describe to him what things are and what they are called.  (We got really good at playing charades!)
This summer it was So Exciting, when we went to a restaurant and Britten didn't need any help ordering.  It was exciting for 2 reason's.  First because he could actually read and know what the item was on the menu, but second; because he could  SEE the writing on the menu.  I'm sure people were wondering why I was squealing, when he put the menu up and said, "I can do it myself mom!"
All the "Little Firsts" have been such incredible blessings in our lives.

The little vision he has in his left eye is getting clearer and he can see things better close up.  He is almost reading normal print now.  His vision from about 10-15 feet away though is still blurry.  But...We are so very grateful for what he has, as it seems like he can see the whole world! 
At times we really forget that he has little vision, because he gets along so well.  He still has his determined, strong spirit though, as he plays competitive basketball and fails to tell them that he has very limited vision.  Lately we have been playing volleyball, and he amazes us (having no depth perception) how he can dig the ball, spike it, and scores the points with his powerful serve.
He is truly an inspiration to me as I see his determination and how he has never given up on himself!

Our lives have been filled with so many blessing this past year as we have felt our Savior's love and seen his hand in Britten's recovery.
Yes, we are excited for Britten's unknown future because we know,
                                           "The Future is as Bright as Your Faith."


Friday, April 19, 2013

Mission Reunion!!

HELLO EVERYONE!!!    This is Britten!
On April11, I went to the SLC airport to see my cousin, Elder Tyler Condie, when he just got back off his mission from Texas. It was so amazing to give him a huge hug and talk with him. I was so happy because I saw how it would have been if I just got back off my mission. We went to eat after that and him and I talk about so many fun, amazing and spiritual things that happened in our mission.
After I was with him and his family, then my family and I went to a hotel close to the SLC temple.

Then that night, I saw my Mission President Moreira and Sister Moreira. I was soooo excited to see them! It was amazing to see them again, since the last time I remember that I saw them was a day or two before I got hit.  I gave Pres. Moreira a hug, and the first time I saw him I talked in Portuguese. I gave sister Moreira a giant hug too, and that was the first hug that I was able to give her. While I was with them, I felt the spirit so strong, and I felt the love that they have for me. I'm so thankful that they were like an awesome teacher, parent and friend.
That night, I met one of the 70's, from Brazil. He told me that his wife went to the same hospital that I was in Salt Lake. And he said that one of the times when he went there, he went to my room and gave me a blessing. He is an amazing man, and I'm so blessed for all those that have gave me blessings.

Then the next morning, I was with Pres. and Sister Moreira's kids, Diogo and Ruth. It was fun taking them and showing them church history sites, like "This is the Place Monument". 
While we were there we ran into a family from Brazil that knew Ruth and Diogo.  I recognized him and asked him if he was from Penha, Brazil?  (He was over institute there).  He said, Yes, are you Britten Schenk?  I said, Yah!
He said, "Your Mission Pres. asked me to have all the institute teacher ask all the students in Brazil to pray and fast for you."  He said, "I'm so glad that you are doing so good.  I know it is because all the prayers to Heavenly Father.  That was amazing that so many people would pray for me.

That night I went to Provo, for a Mission Reunion! I drove with Elder and Sister Moreira and my mom. We talked about so many spiritual thoughts, that were so delighted. When we got there, I saw and talked to so many people that I knew that were on my mission. It was so much fun to talk with all of them about funny and spiritual things that was through our mission. I felt that I was back on my mission with all of the missionaries and my Pres. and Sister Moreira.

I loved so many of them, excpecially my dad (Taylor Fox), and a lot of those that were in my district or zone areas that I was with.
Like Junior Toala, McKay Meyer, Karen Ogden, Jesi Sommers, Steve Clark and many more. We were all so cheerful and it felt like we were back on our mission haha!

All of us feel so blessed for all we did and for all the many people that we helped. We all LOVED our mission.  I'm so glad that I have so many good friends.

I'm SO thankful for all of those that prayed and fasted for me. I honestly dont think any one can comprehend how thankful I am for each and everyone of you. I know that this is the biggest reason why I am doing so well.  I know Heavenly Father has a plan for me, and I hope I can help other people the way you have all helped me.  Thank you!
Love,  Britt :)

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

USHA Convention

  Britten is this year’s recipient of the USHA Communication Ambassador Award. This award is given to someone who has participated in Speech/Language/Hearing services over the course of the year and has inspired others with their strength, perseverance, and success.    -Lisa Millman
    What a great honor this is for Britten to represent the profession that has helped him so much in his recovery. He had the opportunity to speak at their convention.

Monday, April 1, 2013


                                                              Dear Britten,
I want to thank you for sharing your remarkable story and giving such an exceptionally moving speech at the Utah Speech-Language Hearing Association Awards ceremony on March 8th2013. 

It was genuinely inspiring to learn about some of the seemingly insurmountable obstacles that you have overcome along the way. Even more inspiring is what you seem to have taken away from these experiences: inner strength, a growing sense of empathy and caring towards others, and a heroic commitment to celebrating life and being happy. Your message was extraordinarily insightful, optimistic, and uplifting.
Your speech was remarkable not only in content but also in its delivery. It was soft-spoken and powerful, evenly paced and calmly delivered, as well as heart felt and deeply moving. As you continue your journey of recovery, I hope you will continue to think about how your experiences and words might help and inspire others in the future. You are clearly a very gifted speaker with a powerful and important message to share.

Thank you again for sharing your story and your inspirational message.
Lisa Milman, Ph.D., CCC-SLP 
Language & Aphasia NeuroRehabilitation Lab
Department of Communicative Disorders & Deaf Education
Utah State University                 

We were so proud of Britten when he was asked to be the Ambassador for the Utah Speech and Hearing Association. There was no way we were going to miss going to Park City to hear him speak there. Again, we were so amazed at how well he spoke.  I don’t think anyone there had any idea of some of the problems he still has. He spoke so fluently, without any hesitation, expressing his feelings and just giving such a wonderful, uplifting talk.  He has a way of giving credit to others that is so gratifying.  He doesn’t seem to take credit for how hard he has been working.   I had a few ladies tell me afterward that he should be a motivational speaker, he just inspires everyone.                     -Grandma & Grandpa Schenk

After Britten's accident in Brazil it was so hard to follow the day by day things he was going through those first 3 months in the hospitals, and know there was nothing we could do to help the three of them but pray. We could only imagine how hard this was for Steven and Karla too.

 We were so very grateful to Logan and Lora for the way they just moved in with Canon and Jaxon and took care of things at home so Steven and Karla wouldn’t have to worry while they were away..
    I know the Blog was a wonderful thing for all of us.  It was incredible to see the numbers of people who were checking the blog each day and making such wonderful comments. As Steven and Karla would read them to Britten in the hospital, we knew it was helping him, as well as the rest of the family.

Now each time we see Britten, and see all the progress he is making, we can hardly believe it!! Truly our Heavenly Father has blessed him, and continues to do so. We are amazed at the progress he is making and his positive attitude and the devotion of his mother and family. I don’t feel he could have come this far without that support from them.

Britten’s story has touched a lot of people, in and out of the Church. I don't think his mission ended last March. He is still on his mission. I don’t know of one person who knows them who doesn’t love and care for Britten and his welfare and are so concerned about him and his future. We just continue to pray that his eyesight will improve. We love them all more than words can tell, and can hardly wait to see what the next few months brings.   -Grandma & Grandpa Schenk

Britten has an exciting week coming up, as his Mission President is coming to the States and having a Mission Reunion.  His is coming here to our home to see Britten for the first time since his accident.  It will be a wonderful reunion!   We hope to have a post in a week and let Britten tell you all about it.
We thank you for your continued prayers, as you are in ours.
Love...-Schenk Family

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A Time To Celebrate!

One year ago, Britten's life changed and so did our family's. As we look back we are amazed at all that has transpired. We marvel at the love and miracles that our Heavenly Father has showered upon us.  It has been a very difficult year, especially for Britten, but it has also been a year of faith, hope, trust, and growth.     There is a purpose and a reason why Britten's life was spared when Heavenly Father has called others to "come home".  There is no other explanation for the many miracles we've experienced.  We know that Britten has unfinished work on this earth and he is working hard to discover what that is.  No one is more determined, dedicated, and motivated to recover than Britt!  His attitude is amazing and infectious!

A few of the things Britt is doing to progress and keep busy are: He attends speech therapy 4 days a week advancing in his reading, writing, and thought process.  We are thrilled with the progress that he is making each session.  He is attending two Institute of Religion classes at USU 3 days a week.  He volunteers at a local Elementary School tutoring some children with Math.  He serves one day a week in the Logan Temple Baptistry with his Grandma & Grandpa Andreasen.  He is Team-Teaching a Sunday School class with another super RM in our Ward and enjoys sharing mission experiences and his testimony. What has kept him the busiest, and what he enjoys the most, is talking in church and at youth firesides. This is a great challenge for him but he loves sharing his story, his testimony, and experiences from his youth.  With what he has learned from these experiences, he has developed qualities that have made him a strong, determined, and happy individual, which has helped him get through the challenges of this past year.  Britten is an inspiration to all he comes in contact with.
In his free time he loves cuddling with his nieces, playing basketball with his brothers and hanging out with his friends. I feel Britten is happy and doing well, even though his life is different than was planned!
Britten inspires our family daily as he keeps us laughing and reminds us how precious life is.

Britten is experiencing improvement in his vision and he has amazing faith, patience, and hope that it will continue to improve. He still has no vision in his right eye and only has 1/4 of the field of vision in his left eye.  His field of vision has improved ever so slightly, but the clarity has changed dramatically.  It was 20/150, 6 months ago, and in January it had improved to 20/80, and we know it has improved even more since then.

Earlier this year Britten was nominated to be the ambassador for the State of Utah Speech and Hearing Association (USHA) for 2013. On March 8, they presented him this award at their annual convention. Britten gave a very moving speech as he touched all that was in attendance. (We will post a link next week of his speech, for those of you who would like to hear it.) Our family was very proud of him as he shared his feelings of the past year.

Saturday March 16, 2013 was a beautiful day for our family as we celebrated the past year with family and friends. We gathered at the Temple with gratitude, giving thanks to our loving Father in Heaven for the blessings bestowed upon our family the past year.
We headed to the church where we ate and enjoyed each others company.  A video was shown of Britten's recovery over the past year titled,

"Celebrate a year of.... Tears, Prayers, Faith, Hard Work, Accomplishments and Miracles!"

"Tears filled our eyes as we watched the first part of the video showing Britten in the hospital in Brazil.  It made me heart-sick to think that really happened to him.  As I think of the progress he has made, we have to know it was really a miracle, and that Heavenly Father was watching over him and still is. Seeing him every week, and realizing the things that he contiunes to accomplish in speech, physical strength, memorizing talks, teaching Sunday School, confirming and baptizing in the Temple, is amazing as we acknowledge how far he has progressed. We know it has been a lot of hard work, a positive attitude and Heavenly Father helping him.   Britten is still in missionary mode and has never lost that missionary glow that missionaries have when they come home from their missions. He has touched so many lives including ours and we love him so much."      Love, Grandma and Grandpa Andreasen

As I made the video of Britten's past year and reminisced of what "We" have been through, reality sets back in to where he was and how far he has come.  As I look back to the first 3 months in the hospital and the first few month home, I wonder, "how did we do it?"         Then the promise in Mosiah 24:14-15 came to mind.  Verse 14: And I will ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs. That ye may know of a surety the I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.  15: And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light: yea the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord. 

I testify that we were given a strength, a strength beyond our own capacity and our burdens were made light.  As we look back we can see vividly our Saviors love and hand in our lives. 

As a family, we want to make sure that we never forget or take for-granted our many blessings and the miracles our family has witnessed this past year.