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Gavin: A Medical Maze
Gavin: A Medical Maze: Jeff and Brandi Lawrey of Cape Coral talk about their difficult quest to save their son who has a rare, incurable diease. Video by Guy Tubbs.

Special page: Learn more about the Lawrey family's plight through video, see Gavin’s own photography, and see family pictures, follow the story of Gavin with a timeline, comment using social media and learn how you can contribute to the family.

An unknown number. A short phone conversation with an unfamiliar voice.

The man on the other line asks a simple question.

“Is this Gavin Lawrey’s dad?”

“Yes,” says Jeff Lawrey.

“I have an early Christmas gift for Gavin to drop off. Mind if I come by?”

An unfamiliar vehicle pulls into the driveway.

The stranger walks up to the front door and hands Jeff a simple white envelope.

“I have to watch you open it,” the man says. “Thank you. Have a good day.”

Inside is $500. When Jeff looks up, the man is in his car driving away.

The Lawreys call these moments “God winks.”

“When you aren’t sure what to do or how to handle something and it just falls into place,” Brandi Lawrey says. “This is a God wink. He took care of it for you.”

Serendipitous but not uncommon. Moments like these have kept them going. At times, a God wink brings food, other times support. In 2012, the Make-a-Wish Foundation sent the family on their first vacation in years aboard the Disney Dream Cruise. Gavin called wish granter Coby Palmer his “fairy godfather.”

It brought a real estate agency into their lives — employees adopted them over Christmas last year. The workers showered the kids with gifts, provided house cleaning and lawn service for a year and $3,000 toward Gavin’s medical trust fund.

Friends at Caloosa Elementary School and around Cape Coral have made a point to assist when they’re able. This could mean baby sitting at a moment’s notice or picking up supplies when Brandi finds herself in the hospital with Gavin. It was two teachers, Bob Bravard and Angela Harbison, who came up with the annual golf outing to benefit the boy’s medical trust fund.

The event is on its fourth year, held every fall in Cape Coral.

“I was raised when people need help, you reach out and help them,” Bravard says. “I was aware of their needs. It was the right thing to do.”

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Hospital bills are divided into those the family can pay and those they cannot. Last year, Gavin met his deductible of $25,000 in just a few months.

Like his favorite hero, Iron Man, machines help keep him healthy.

Gavin uses his “waggle waggle” car every night to help his lungs. It’s a $16,000 machine. Suited up, it looks like scuba gear. The blue vest is wrapped around Gavin’s torso and inflates like a life preserver. A nebulizer mask is placed on his face and the boy inhales. His chest is vibrated for 20 minutes to get the mucus moving and keep it out of his lungs. As frequent visitors at the hospital themselves, Brandi collects toys for the patients over the holidays. She gives back as she can, knowing how much they’ve been helped. Sometimes even a toy can turn a bad day into a better one.

Gavin’s sensitive immune system means his teachers and Brandi double and triple check to make sure the students wash their hands. Tables are disinfected constantly. Harbison, now his kindergarten teacher and previously Makenzie’s, admits she was nervous to have him in class.

“I was terrified to have him in my room,” Harbison says. “I asked myself, ‘What if this isn’t a good place for him to be?’ I want Gavin to have the experience other children his age have.”

Today, she knows Gavin’s signals almost as well as Brandi and has learned how Gavin learns best. Adjustments were made. Gavin follows along on a laptop at school and rests when he needs to.

“They’re like my family now,” says Robyn Heller, a first-grade teacher at Caloosa. “They’re like everyone’s family.”

Green flooded their world after the diagnosis. It’s the awareness color for mito. It’s their color for hope.

Like the Lawreys’ lives, everything has been drenched in green. It’s the color of the ribbons on mailboxes in their neighborhood and classrooms at Caloosa Elementary School, where green solo cups were inserted into the fence to form the shape of a green mito ribbon during Mito Week last October.

The student body was given the chance to know more about the boy, his illness and his little black dog.

“Gavin is a fixture in the school. He is so excited about learning. He loves it and we love him. And (Brandi) she gives more than she receives,” says Shelley Markgraf, principal at Caloosa Elementary. “There’s no way I can give back what she’s done for our school.”

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