‘He totally changed my perspective on life:’ Benton family finds hope in the darkness of son’s blindness

Special Reports

BENTON, Ark.- A mother’s hope for her child is that they are born healthy, but sometimes things just don’t go as planned. That kind of pain can be cruel and unfair, but one Benton family is choosing to see the light in the dark places.

Haze Burkhalter seems just like any other baby. The 18-month-old loves his toys and his best buddy, his dog Goose.

But Haze isn’t like other babies. He was born at 27 weeks and given just a 50 percent chance of survival, something that blind-sided mom, Alex Harrell.

“All the labs, everything was perfect,” she said. “He looked great on ultrasound.”

Because Haze was so premature, he suffered a brain bleed that damaged his white brain matter.

Alex explained Haze probably never walk or eat without a tube after being diagnosed with quadriplegic cerebral palsy and is considered blind.

He also has chronic lung disease, which makes him a frequent patient at Arkansas Children’s.

“In fact, he has made it six weeks without being in the hospital, which is huge for him,” Alex noted.

“I forget sometimes how delayed he is because he’s just my baby,” she said. “We just kind of adapt to life.”

Alex believes it is God’s grace that has gotten them through.

“I kept hearing the verse Romans 8:18, which says, ‘The pain you feel today can’t compare to the joy that’s coming,’” Alex said. “Never did I know that how much joy he would bring us.”

That’s not to say it’s been easy.

“You’re almost numb to it,” Alex said. “You have to be because you have to be there for your baby. I got into therapy. I had to do that. I had to have something to help me cope.”

She also enrolled in nursing school, inspired by the NICU nurses who took such good care of Haze during his 108-day stay.

“They literally treated these babies like they were their own,” Alex said.

The mom is now using her story to help others.

“He has totally changed my perspective on life, and if there’s one thing that I could tell anybody, it’s to never give up,” Alex said. “It’s ok to be different and that’s what makes you unique.”

Because after all, you don’t have to see…when love is blind.

The Hurricane Lake Estates in Benton will host a holiday lights fundraiser for Haze and his family on Friday, Dec. 17 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. with all proceeds going to help Haze with medical expenses. For more information on the family’s journey, visit the Haze’s Tribe page.

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