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'A miracle': Make-A-Wish kid with rare birth defect becomes honorary firefighter in St. Louis County

Conner Brokaw was born with Spina Bifida, a rare birth defect that causes spinal development failure and impacts just over 1,400 babies in the U.S. each year.

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — A dream came true for a kid who always wanted to become a firefighter on Wednesday. The Metro West Fire Protection District welcomed a new member to its crew with a splashing water arch and an assembly line with clapping heroes.

Behind 11-year-old Conner Brokaw's bright smile is a battle. Brokaw was born with Spina Bifida, a rare birth defect that causes spinal development failure and impacts just over 1,400 babies in the U.S. each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"It affects his walking sometimes, his back surgeries. It affects the bladder and the bowels. He's had over 30 surgeries," said Tanya Brokaw, Conner’s mom.

A few years ago, an extreme seizure put Conner on a ventilator for five days prompting his family to pray.

"He started coughing, and he started waking up more and then they were like oh wow. He wants to get up,” Conner’s mom continued.

The family then reached out to Make-A-Wish to put together something Conner’s always dreamed of which was to do what a firefighter does.

Make-A-Wish Missouri & Kansas grants about 300 wishes every fiscal year, and Conner’s was one of them.

Three hundred miles away from home in Iowa, the family traveled to Station 2 in Ballwin where crews set up demonstrations.

Conner was given a badge, a helmet, and a coat.

He witnessed an engine company demonstration, a rope rescue, and suited up for vehicle extrication.

Connor has often associated ambulances with his own medical care but Wednesday he practiced pushing a crew member into a unit.

“It's a little bit of a rescue for us. Honestly, when you see that light on his face because we're able to just share a little bit of what we do but to him it's the whole world," said Deputy Chief Mike Digman.

A child's imagination was brought to life.

"A miracle. Because he just loves them and wants to be with them. So we just keep telling him. Like nope, this isn't the end of your journey. Any day with Connor is a good day," Conner’s mom said.

Conner and his family will leave Friday morning after exploring St. Louis a little bit more. He will take his badge and enjoy the rest of his summer break.

Conner will also get a break from therapy which he does routinely throughout the school year.

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