However, the Brain Tumor Foundation for Children went a step further earlier this month as it honored Bridges, her husband, John, and son, Conor, as heroes at the foundation’s recent Flight of the Butterflies: A Tribute to Our Heroes and Angels program at the Atlanta History Center.
With the emcee being Atlanta radio and TV personality Clark Howard and his wife, actress Lane Carlock, the Bridges family of Dallas was one of more than 45 adults and children honored at the foundation’s annual event.
“Although we knew Conor was going to be recognized as a brain tumor survivor, it was a very special event for us,” Rhonda Bridges said.
“The Brain Tumor Foundation has been with us in all aspects of our journey with Conor and the organization, as well as our family and friends, have been a real cornerstone for us throughout this journey.”
Although being the family of a brain tumor survivor “hero” made the event special, Bridges said a video presentation at the event showing children who died from a brain tumor – referred to in the program as “angels” – was one of the most moving parts of the program.
“When the photos of those children were shown, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house,” Bridges said.
Conor, 17, who attends specialized classes at East Paulding, was diagnosed shortly after birth with a condition known as neurofibromatosis which causes tumors to grow throughout the body. He was also found to have a tumor behind his right eye which was not malignant.
Although the tumor was removed, Conor is blind in that eye.
“Our family was devastated but, this ordeal, as difficult as it was for our family, has had some positive results,” Bridges said.
She returned to nursing school to learn how to care for Conor, who also had epilepsy, which causes seizures.
“It has brought our family closer together,” Bridges said. “Although we see the children of our friends growing up, having careers and getting married, we know that Conor will be with us forever and we wouldn’t have it any other way,”
One thing is for sure, Bridges said, Conor will never be too far away from his hobby, collecting model trains and watching trains in operation.
Bridges said facing a situation like this changes a family’s lives forever.
“This is our new normal lifestyle now,” she said. “Conor loves school and is so looking forward to graduating.”
She said her family is now looking at different schools and foundations Conor could attend after graduation, such as the Tommy Nobis Center in Atlanta, which offers a range of services including vocational and skills training.