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Making an Impact in Children’s Lives



Ranchers Aaron and Sheyna Strommen have learned to enjoy the little things in life. The couple and their three children make a living raising cattle and horses on a ranch 37 miles southwest of Mandan, N.D.

“Aaron and I feel very blessed to be raising our children in the wide open spaces of rural North Dakota – where there’s room to explore, build forts and experience the beauty of nature,” Sheyna said. “Every day, we are reminded of the little things in life that bring great joy to our family. We enjoy watching calves kick up their heels in the pasture, playing with our three kids, or watching our baby learn to operate a powered wheelchair.”

The couple was elated when their third child, Clint, made his debut in June 2011. The Strommens and their two other children, Cassidy and Cooper, waited patiently for Clint to come home from the hospital, but unexpected health complications and an unknown diagnosis kept him under constant medical watch until he was 4 weeks old.

Minutes after birth, Sanford nurses noticed that Clint made an uncommon “gurgling” sound and had difficulty breathing. The nurses whisked him away to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit where he stayed for the next week under the care of Sanford Neonatologist Rafael Ocejo, MD, and Pediatrician Michelle Seibel, MD.

“Six days after Clint was born, Dr. Ocejo told us he thought Clint had a rare muscle disorder, a form of muscular dystrophy, and that we needed to go to another hospital for additional testing,” Sheyna said. “We were in complete and utter disbelief. How could this be happening?” The night before the Sheyna and Clint flew in a Sanford’s plane to Minneapolis, Minn., the Strommens brought Cassidy and Cooper into the NICU for the first time to talk to their baby brother.

“Cooper told Clint all about the mutton busting that he had watched the night before at the Mandan Rodeo and, after looking at the NICU baby bedding Clint was swaddled in, Cassidy decided to buy her baby brother something blue to wear because, ‘Boys don’t like to wear hearts,’” she said.

Three months later, specialists confirmed Dr. Ocejo’s diagnosis for Clint: merosin-deficient congenital muscular dystrophy (CMD). Although little things, like waving his arms, are more difficult for Clint than with other kids, joyous moments are intertwined with Clint’s ongoing battle with CMD.

“We were overjoyed the first time we saw our toddler operate a powered wheelchair, or when a swallow study proved to everyone that Clint was perfectly capable of chewing and swallowing food,” Sheyna said.

For nearly two years, Clint has met with physical, occupational and speech therapists and continues to see Dr. Ocejo at Sanford Bismarck to improve his health, mobility and development. As a toddler, Clint can now feed himself, sit independently and talk continuously – accomplishments the Strommens credit to the physicians, nurses and specialists at Sanford Health.

“We feel very fortunate to have had doctors with the ability to care for Clint from Day 1,” Aaron said. “The doctors had the perceptiveness to pick up on Clint’s signs of distress, understand the complexities of his condition and confidence to refer us to specialists.”

“The compassion shown to our family by the nursing staff, as well as the therapists we’ve worked with is something we will carry with us forever,” Sheyna said. “Those acts may have seemed little to them at the time, but made a huge impact on our family. We have complete confidence in the hospital’s capabilities, compassion and care.”

Donors to Sanford Children’s help provide state-of-the-art equipment used by specially-trained medical professionals so they can identify health problems immediately, as in Clint’s case, and address them right away.

To learn more about the Sanford Children’s Center of Excellence in Bismarck or make a gift, visit bismarck.sanfordhealth.org/foundation or call (701) 323-8450.

Posted Date: June 2014

Making an Impact in Children’s Lives

Minutes after the birth of Clint Strommen, Sanford nurses noticed he made an uncommon “gurgling” sound and had difficulty breathing. Nurses immediately went into action to save his life.