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Mothers with heart

Doug Ramsay photo

Francisca Allard sits in the yard of the family’s home near Snohomish, along with her three children, left to right, Taylor, 20; Raegan, 3; and Mason, 7.

Julie Bruggenkamp

SNOHOMISH — One mother gave a priceless gift in a moment, the other over the course of 30 years.
The stories of two Snohomish mothers, Francisca Allard and Julie Bruggenkamp, are unique but they both exemplify the giving nature that families everywhere celebrate on Mother’s Day.
Francisca Allard is a mother of three. She bore her first son, Taylor, 20 years ago and her second, Mason, seven years ago, before giving birth to daughter Raegen.
The Allards form a common family unit, a single parent household, with a working mother. Taylor is a student at Everett Community College and Mason is just starting his school career as a first grader.
But beyond the surface, Francisca Allard has been living a complex reality for nearly four years: Her three-year-old little girl Raegen was born with a potentially terminal kidney condition.
Julie Bruggenkamp knows lots of parents like Allard, though the two have never met. It’s her profession and its in her maternal nature.
Bruggenkamp is a mother of two daughters. Her children are both dedicated in social services like their mother. The younger, Alex Winninghoff, works at the University of Georgia where she’s studying to earn her Ph.D., while the elder, Joelle Brouner, was just named Executive Director at Colorado Developmental Disabilities Council.
It is easy to see how they were shaped by their mother’s career, which spans 30 years and counting as a para educator.
Beyond the two children Bruggenkamp birthed are thousands more she’s mothered over her many years, including her most recent job working with children impaired her husband’s ability to work two years ago.
Now Bruggenkamp is on a year’s leave from the job as she battles a dual diagnosis of breast and renal cancers discovered last August.
She underwent a mastectomy last September and a kidney removal in October. While Bruggenkamp recovered from the traumatic surgeries, Allard was preparing for her own lifesaving surgery.
That surgery this spring was to remove her kidney to provide a lifesaving transplant for three-year-old Raegen.
At only a few months old, Raegen was diagnosed with congenital nephrotic syndrome, but she was too small and weak for a transplant until she was three.
Her kidney defect meant she retained fluid and swelled up. Five days a week were spent in the hospital receiving treatment, and she lived a diet and activity restricted life, with a catheter sticking out of her abdomen.
Doctors first removed one kidney and a year later had to remove the remaining kidney.
“We were riding the Children’s Hospital wave, doing what we could to keep her alive,” Allard said.
So, in March, both mom and daughter underwent the life-changing surgery. Allard calls the day she lost her kidney the “best day ever.”
Allard saw Raegen begin to thrive almost immediately. She grew up like a shooting star, Allard said, talking more, energized, and with a sparkle in her eye. That was a major blessing for big brother Mason, who has autism. Allard said the two were made for each other.
Allard said it was the little things plus the support of her mother and mother-in-law that helped keep her going through the long ordeal. That and knowing “Monday is tomato soup and mac and cheese day” at the hospital.
She credits her own mother for instilling the importance of positivity in her, but also for being there to share tears.
Bruggenkamp’s kidney removal was also successful and she’s looking forward to returning to work as soon as possible. In the meantime, her full-time job is radiation treatments.
She has plenty of wisdom to share gleaned from all the years she’s supported children facing their own imposing challenges.
“Its been amazing to see … how you can celebrate things that would sometimes become overlooked. One is that everybody’s mountain is a little bit different. It’s the will you extend not the height of the mountain you climb.”
Both mothers are studies in willpower, the kind it takes to mother sick children for years on end, to support struggling students for decades, and to face their own crises with unyielding spirits.
Their limitless giving has changed the lives of their children, both biological and spiritual ones.
GoFundMe campaigns were created for both mothers whose medical needs have meant expensive treatments and significant time away from work.
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