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Some days should be noted — for best or not best

January 3, 2010
By SANDY MICKELSON, Messenger staff writer

Norman Rockwell would have loved our Christmas.

It wasn't on Christmas because of the storm, but it would have made the master of hometown America drool - four people, big and little, lying on their stomachs in front of the Christmas tree playing Hungry Hungry Hippo; the man of the house putting dishes in the dishwasher while quietly singing "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer;" and the woman of the house rolling out sugar cookies with help from her toddler granddaughter. Some slept; some just sat to watch others.

The day could not have been any more perfect had it been scripted.

Perfect doesn't happen often, and when it does, it should be noted.

Today is a day of note for John and Steph Mueller, of West Des Moines, but for another reason.

Today they're taking their 9-year-old daughter Sierra to the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. The youngster will have a pre-op appointment Monday, and on Tuesday she'll go into brain surgery at 7:30 a.m.

Brain surgery. Seems the left side of the brain is seven times the size it should be, overrunning the right side and filling in the gaps in the top and bottom. That's how Sierra's mother explained it.

John Mueller is a 1995 graduate of Fort Dodge Senior High; Steph Mueller, the former Stephanie Klaassen, is a 1996 graduate of Manson Northwest Webster. Sierra was born with mild cerebral palsy, likely brought on in the second trimester when she may have been entangled in the umbilical cord, which diminished the oxygen supply to the brain.

Sierra is in fourth grade and has been at the top of her class until recently, when she started to slip.

"She can't retain information," Steph Mueller said recently. "She is so determined; she works on her math facts for an hour or more because she knows she won't retain it, so she just keeps working."

Retention has been slipping, Mueller said, because the child "seizes from the time she falls asleep to the morning, so she can't turn her short-term memories into long-term. She's always worn out because she's not sleeping."

These petty seizures are small, kind of like static electricity, she said. "Her eyes will roll up for a few seconds, then she comes back out. They're little surges in her brain, like pressing shift, alt, delete on a computer - she starts over."

As her brain misfires, she loses IQ points.

Part of Sierra's surgery will be a hemispherectomy, where most of the right side of the brain will be removed. Doctors will cut away the bundle of brain matter that lets the right hemisphere and the left hemisphere of the brain communicate.

To help the Muellers with the financial burden, both of the surgery and of costs involved with staying in Milwaukee, a fund has been set up for them at Wells Fargo Bank. It will be in the name of Josh Calvert, under the donation account for Sierra Mueller. To make a deposit, just contact any Wells Fargo Bank and ask them to deposit money in that account.

That would truly be an act of friendship, and friendship, the kind of friendship that holds on through the years, is as special as a perfect Christmas day.

So long friends, until the next time when we're together.

Contact Sandy Mickelson at (515) 573-2141 or



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