A Tennessee native, Brandi McCutchen has always been a fighter. She worked as a 911 operator and dispatcher, working alongside her dad, a lieutenant on the force. Courageous, persistent, and strong, anyone would be lucky to have Brandi on their team. But when her son Brylee was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, she had to set her life aside to become his full-time caretaker.
Although his initial diagnosis was cerebral palsy, Brylee has many other medical needs. He has had many surgeries to address his condition and now relies on a ventilator, a feeding tube, and a trach. For the first ten years of his life, Brandi was his sole caretaker, receiving no assistance from her health insurance for Brylee’s needs. Although she’s certainly a fighter, Brandi admits, “I’m not superwoman. I can’t do it all.”
Everyone in the family calls Brylee “Smiley Brylee, because he’s always got a smile on his face.” Although doctors have told them Brylee can only see a few inches in front of his face, he can definitely recognize voices. “He always lights up” when his dad or his brothers, Brenon and Braxton, walk in the room. He loves Alabama football, music, watching The Price is Right every morning at 10, and his pet lobster, Larry. “He’s an angel here on Earth.” Brandi says, “He is perfection. The way I see it, I’m lucky to have him.”
When Brylee was finally approved for TennCare home health hours, he only was approved four hours per day of nursing care, not nearly enough to meet his needs. To say that Brandi and her husband Jody have had to fight for Brylee’s care would be an understatement. Brylee was finally approved for more hours of in-home nurse care, but sadly it’s not always that simple. “Sometimes, there’s just not a nurse to fill in, so I have to,” Brandi said. They also receive constant notifications that his care could be in jeopardy. But when they received a notification that Brylee’s home health hours were going to be cut, the McCutchen's reached out to the Tennessee Justice Center for help. We were able to connect them with an attorney who helped them appeal the decision, and TennCare reinstated Brylee’s essential home health hours.
Today, Brandi and Jody, who grew up on the same street in Madison, now live in Hendersonville with Brylee, the middle child, Braxton, their youngest, their two dogs, a handful of chickens, and of course, Larry the lobster. Although Brylee usually has nurses, Brandi never knows when she may have to step up, but in her spare time, she owns and operates an ice cream truck and advocates for other children with severe health needs. “Children don’t grow out of their disabilities. They don’t miraculously heal when they turn 18.” Brandi finds time to not only hand out Rocket Pops to excited neighborhood kids but also advocate for more comprehensive health care for people with disabilities.
When asked what TJC’s help meant to her, Brandi said; “Goodness. A whole lot. It makes me feel less anxiety and stress knowing that someone understands, and they want to help. I can’t tell you how many doors get opened and closed just as fast when we explain what we need [for Brylee.]” While TJC was able to help Brandi re-secure Brylee’s home health hours, we never know if TennCare may change their minds again, but if they do, TJC will be there. “You’re compassionate, and you care, and you help… To know there are people out there who fight for families like mine and don’t treat us like a number is so comforting.” TJC is proud to honor Brandi McCutchen as a 2023 Mother of the Year for her courage, persistence, and strength in fighting for her son’s health and advocating for other families like hers.