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Moorhead boy featured in 'Extreme Home Makeover' battling spina bifida complications

MOORHEAD - Garrett Grommesh has never had it easy when it comes to his health, but recently, the Moorhead boy's body has waged a renewed war against him, putting him in and out of a Twin Cities children's hospital since mid-December.

The 11-year-old and his family first charmed the Fargo-Moorhead community in October 2010 when they were chosen to receive a new handicapped-accessible home from ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition."

Garrett was born with spina bifida, a disorder that left him paralyzed from the waist down and requires a shunt to drain excess spinal fluid from his brain.

Garrett's recent bout of health problems began about nine months ago and emerged again with renewed force in mid-December, according to posts written by his mother, Adair, on the boy's CaringBridge webpage.

Between April and mid-December, Garrett underwent nearly a dozen surgeries and battled various ailments, including an untethering of his spine.

But the shunt needed to drain his spinal fluid has posed among the greatest challenges for Garrett.

He needed three revisions to the shunt's settings earlier this year. In December, the shunt became infected, requiring Garrett to be airlifted to a Twin Cities hospital for emergency surgery, according to Adair Grommesh's CaringBridge posts.

Since Dec. 16, Garrett has been home from Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare in St. Paul for barely five days in all.

Grommesh has written extensively on the CaringBridge site about her son's latest battle, which left Garrett reeling from the "excruciating pain" associated with the shunt's complications.

While doctors sought to find the right setting for the shunt - which also affects pressure on the brain - Garrett experienced several grand mal seizures and severe headaches, she wrote.

Garrett has had good days here and there, but the moments of normalcy don't last long, Grommesh wrote.

The situation grew more complex in the past week, after Garrett started suffering severe stomach and intestinal cramping, his mother wrote.

As of Tuesday afternoon, doctors were beginning a series of tests to determine the cause of Garrett's gastrointestinal problems.

Throughout Garrett's struggle, the Grommesh family asks for only one thing for those concerned about the boy's condition: prayer.

"The only thing I find comfort in is that we have so many, many people praying for Garrett to regain his health and come home, so we can all be home together," Grommesh wrote on Monday. "This is a tough time - and I am trying to tell myself that we are even tougher."

While Garrett and his mother have been in the Twin Cities, Garrett's father, Bill, and his older sister, Peighton, have stayed in Moorhead, visiting Garrett when they can.

Adair Grommesh declined to comment to The Forum for this story.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kristen Daum at (701) 241-5541