A Lot in 18 Years

The columnist hands over the keyboard to a grandson who has gone through a lot in a short period of time.

By Ed Butts, PE, CPI

Engineering Your Business is nearly 20 years old and I have penned every word of the columns, save two. The first exception was written by my son, Adam, in the September 2005 issue on the topic of business management. The second is this month’s edition, partially written by my grandson, Brice.

I have written articles about numerous people through the years. In addition to my exploits and exaggerations about my prowess in engineering and pump installation, I have penned articles about my father, mother, wife, former employer, and grandchildren.

Although I once wrote on his many medical challenges, the one individual I have not written about recently is Brice. Now that he has turned 18, is somewhat more stable with his health, and has graduated from high school, I can think of no better subject as he embarks on a new life by entering adulthood.

If you recall my earlier column on Brice, you’ll know he did not have a typical childhood as he was plagued with many medical problems early in life and still faces many medical issues to this day. Since I last wrote about him, he has had seven more surgeries, bringing the total number to 21!

When he was 10 years old, he had brain surgery for a Chiari Malfunction. Over his lifetime, he has had numerous surgeries on his ears to fix developmental deafness that resulted from severe ear infections. This included a new experimental surgery in 2012 that involved removing a portion of skin from his leg and rebuilding the inner ear with a new eardrum and three new titanium bones.

He is a real trooper when it comes to all the challenges that have and continue to face him. Through ups and downs, he tries not to let it affect him in his everyday life. Although he is often in pain, I commend that he still knows things can and will get better and time will heal his wounds.

He has a bright future ahead of him. He will accomplish many things in his lifetime, and I hope he knows that. We talk a lot about his future and other things ranging from sports to girls and everything in between.

I could not be prouder of him and all the learning he has done over his childhood and early adulthood. That’s why I asked him to write about what it is like to go through more in 18 years than what most people will face in a lifetime.


Hello everyone, my name is Brice.

I was asked to write about some of the hardships and trials through my life.

I just graduated from high school and will be attending college in the fall. Though I cannot recall all the surgeries I have had at such a young age, the most vivid in my mind was when I had brain surgery.

I was having issues with the right side of my body. I would trip over my right foot and I started having trouble grasping things in my right hand. I was also having terribly painful headaches.

My mom went to the doctor and asked that they run an MRI as she felt that something was wrong. She was informed that they would run it, but she would need to pay out of pocket for the test. About two weeks later, I went to Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland, Oregon, and had a sedated MRI that lasted for six hours.

A doctor called about a week later. His exact words were, “I have good news and bad news.” The good news was insurance would be paying for the MRI after all, but the bad news was I had to meet with a neurosurgeon at Doernbecher as he had found a problem.

My mom and I were told at the meeting that I had a Chiari Malformation and without surgery I had a 50 percent chance of having a stroke and dying. However, I was also told the surgery itself was a full brain surgery that had its own risks.

My mom and I decided to go ahead with the surgery. Having to be awake during brain surgery at 9 years old is a scary experience. I had to talk to the surgeon while he worked around the vital areas of the brain. When I awoke, I had sores all over my head from a halo that had been screwed in.

I remember not being able to move my body without someone actually picking me up and rolling me over because the pain from the incision ran from the top of my head all the way down to the bottom of my neck. Along with the painful incision I had massive headaches for nearly seven months after the surgery. I have had at least one MRI a year to make sure the problem has not resurfaced for the last eight years.

My second most memorable surgery was when I had a Nissen Fundoplication. I had gone through other surgeries to repair my esophagus due to severe erosion from acid reflux, but it finally got so bad a hole eroded into my esophagus and was starting to destroy my trachea.

A Nissen Fundoplication surgery involves cutting the esophagus from the stomach and then wrapping the esophagus around the top of the stomach to make a new valve. This did not allow the stomach acid to move up from the stomach any longer or erode the esophagus or trachea any further. The downside of the surgery is you must live for months off a feeding tube to let your stomach and esophagus heal.

Though I had the tube for only a few months, those were the worst few months of my life. You must have everything fed directly into your body. It is amazing how much you want to drink or eat something like normal when you can’t do so.

But as bad as having the feeding tube was, having it removed was worse. When the doctors pull out the tube, a raw opening is left so stomach acid can leak out until the opening heals.

My most recent surgery was the emergency removal of my gallbladder in 2019. I was having severe upper right-side abdominal pain and excessive stomach acid was rising into my throat again. Numerous CT scans were run, but everything kept coming back as normal.

The pain then got worse a few weeks later, so I was brought into the ER. They could not find the issue with another CT scan, but blood work showed an issue with liver enzymes and I was starting to show signs of becoming jaundiced.

I was admitted into the hospital and doctors ran a Hida Scan (which checks the function of the gallbladder and liver by how much bile it injects into the body). A normal Hida Scan is above 35% but mine showed it would inject at only 10%. This meant I would have to have yet another surgery to have it removed as my grandfather had.

I was put into the hospital as an inpatient as they did not have an operating room available for three to four days. However, the next day I was so sick another Hida Scan was run, and it showed an injection rate of 0, meaning the gallbladder had died and it was now an emergency. I was told by the time surgeons got to my gallbladder, it was gray from dying and starting to show signs of sepsis.

All these surgeries and health issues in my 18 years of life is what has given me the drive to go into psychology to help other troubled and sick youth. Young children who deal with severe health issues along with children from abusive households need someone in their corner—someone who understands what they go through in their daily lives and who can be a caring ear to listen to their troubles. I want to be that

I am planning on attending Chemeketa Community College for two years, then obtaining a transfer degree to go to the University of Portland.

Thanks for reading this!


Thank you, Brice. Until next month, work safe and smart.

Ed Butts, PE, CPI, is the chief engineer at 4B Engineering & Consulting, Salem, Oregon. He has more than 40 years of experience in the water well business, specializing in engineering and business management. He can be reached at epbpe@juno.com.