The Pierre fire and police departments put on a special send-off for three-year-old Brody Nilson, who is undergoing pediatric neurologist testings.

Last year, Brody was discovered to have childhood apraxia of speech — a condition that causes him to be non-verbal. He has been going through testings and therapies. Recently, he has been showing signs of absence seizures. Also known as petit mal seizures, these are brief, usually less than 15 seconds, and are sometimes barely noticeable. However, a loss of awareness or even consciousness, even for such a short time, can make these seizures dangerous.

“This whole year has been rough for him,” said mother Jessica Nilson. “His brain does not tell his mouth how to form words … and now the petit seizures. Basically, what the specialists’ test are going to be for are to cover all the bases and rule out what we cannot see on the outside.”

Brody is fascinated by firefighters and police officers.

“He’s always had an interest in fire and police people,” said Jessica Nilson. “On our way to speech occupational therapy sessions at Jefferson Elementary School, if he sees a police car parked on the side of the road, he gets really excited … making sounds not words.”

Nilson said the therapists have been working diligently with Brody for a year now.

“I think because he has to see so many therapists, doctors and specialists, he gets nervous, and it is so very tiring,” she said.

Hearing of Brody by way of a friend of a friend, firefighter Jen Winter headed up coordinating a send-off for Brody before he and his mother would be driving to Sioux Falls, Sept. 18, for Brody to be tested by pediatric neurologists at Avera Children’s Hospital. Brody’s father, Cody, and his two sisters, Addison (10) and Kaylee (6) had to stay behind in Pierre.

“Lots of department members wanted to be part of this and help send Brody off,” said Winter. After making Brody an honorary firefighter, “They encouraged him to be brave. Firefighters have to be brave and be confident,” said Winter. “Being a firefighter is not just about fighting fires, but being a part of the community, in giving back in many different ways. They encourage. They are positive role models.”

To ease some of Brody’s nervousness before the Nilson’s early morning trip, Brody was first picked up at his home by a fire truck crew, then with police escort, toured to Station 1 at 215 W. Dakota. There Brody was high-fived by the waiting line of fire and police personnel. He was the person of the hour — honored and given gifts.

Brody was presented a little backpack from the fire department auxiliary (spouses and other non-member supporters of the fire department). The backpack was filled with colors, coloring books, and other items.

Brody was also given a decommissioned fire helmet with Brody’s name on it, and a remote-controlled toy fire engine that had been signed by fire and police department members. He received a white dress shirt and tie that had been made ‘official’ with fire patches and tags. He immediately put the shirt on. Brody also received a stuffed dalmatian doll, the traditional fire department dog.

“Something he can snuggle up with,” said Jen Winter.

Before leaving, Brody handed the stuffed dog to almost everyone to be hugged and handed back.

Brody and Jessica drove off to their specialists’ appointments. Police officers went on to their duties, and volunteer fire personnel went to their jobs.

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