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Family business promotes spina bifida awareness - Daily Leader Extra : Top Stories

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Family business promotes spina bifida awareness

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Posted: Wednesday, July 10, 2019 2:14 pm

Emily Oberg is a chatterbox and isn't a bit shy.

"When I was a baby, I kept falling down," the five-year-old reported just moments after being introduced to a stranger.

"You crawled until you were three," her grandmother, Betty Oberg, affirmed.

They were gathered with other family members in the office at the family business in Colton -- Colton Redi-Mix, a concrete supplier which does business in the Madison area. The purpose of the meeting was to explain the logo which will soon be seen whenever Nate Oberg, Emily's dad, is on a job with his truck.

The design with teal and blue angel wings on either side of a stylized SB is to raise awareness of spina bifida, a birth defect in which the spine and spinal cord do not form properly. The Centers for Disease Control indicates that approximately 1,645 children are born annually with this condition.

Emily is one of those children, though she doesn't let it stop her. Her braces give her a lurching gait, but she is curious -- bending over to watch a ladybug she sees when she goes outdoors -- and vivacious.

She's even proven to be a handful at times for her preschool teacher. As the only girl in the small class, she doesn't hesitate to stand up for herself.

"She gets text messages often," Betty said, referring to her daughter-in-law, Nicole. One was surprising, though: "Your daughter punched a boy in the face."

While Emily's parents and grandparents want her to be a well-behaved child, they can't help but smile in relating that story. Her progress and independence are a continuing source of pride.

"A lot of spina bifida kids are wheelchair bound," Betty explained. "With the severity of it that she had, they didn't think she'd walk."

Nate and Nicole Oberg had no idea when they went in for a routine ultrasound 19 weeks into Nicole's pregnancy that anything was wrong. They had three healthy children -- Rhegan, Payton and Marcus -- and the pregnancy felt no different to Nicole than the others.

"We had to wait 45 minutes for a routine ultrasound," Nate recalled.

That was the first indication they had that their routine ultrasound was going to provide more information than the gender of their child.

"It was the most terrifying thing ever," Nicole shared.

When the news came, their first question was direct.

"What are our options?" Nate said they asked.

The decision they made was a no-brainer as far as they were concerned. They went to Tennessee, so that prenatal surgery could be performed at the Vanderbilt Medical Center.

"Nate just said, `We're doing it'," Nicole noted. "Kids have better results if they have the surgery before they're born."

Even with the surgery, the possibility existed that Emily would be paralyzed. They did not know the outcome until June 3, when she was born.

"She could move everything," Nicole said. "We thought she had a club foot, but it was just a weak ankle."

Emily's medical issues did not end with the prenatal surgery. When she was nine months old, she had surgery again, this time to put in a shunt which drains excess cerebrospinal fluid off her brain.

"If we don't catch it, the pressure in her brain could kill her," Nate explained.

She also has ongoing bladder issues.

"She doesn't get rid of her urine properly," Betty said.

In addition, Emily goes to the Shriners Hospital in Minneapolis every six months and has been hospitalized locally for issues -- such as a cold and bladder infection -- which might not require the same level of care in other children. Too, she has had her tonsils removed.

The Obergs have received financial assistance for the ongoing medical expenses, both from a local fundraiser and from the Shriners Hospital. They have also enjoyed a Make-A-Wish trip to Disney World in Orlando, Fla.

Now, they want to give back by raising awareness.

Since Emily was born, the Oberg family has become aware of other children in the area who were also born with spina bifida. Family members have also realized that unlike cancer, which touches so many lives, most people are unaware of the birth defect.

Consequently, when Colton Redi-Mix decided to invest in a new truck, the Obergs contacted the Spina Bifida Association and sought permission to use the truck to raise awareness. The design Nicole had developed incorporated the association's logo and colors and was approved.

"She said, `Go for it'," Betty said, relating the conversation. "She said, `As long as it's new, get the word out'."

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