Susan Lucci (ex-Erica Kane, “All My Children;” Genevieve Delatour, “Devious Maids”) opened up about her grandson’s battle with cerebral palsy on a recent episode of “The Dr. Oz Show.” Together, Lucci and her daughter, Liza Huber (ex-Gwen Winthrop, “Passions”), shared the emotions they went through upon learning Liza’s son Brendan, now 7, had the non-progressive neurological disorder.
“He was just about two years old,” recounted Huber, noting that she went through “a flood of emotions. It was every emotion you could think of. It was sadness, because I knew he would have to be dealing with cerebral palsy for the rest of his life, but also tremendous gratitude, because I knew he would be able to walk and many others could not.”
Lucci’s first thought was how she could support her daughter during the trying time. “I wanted to be there in whatever way I could, if my presence, in any way, could comfort Liza,” she confided.
However, during the first three weeks that Brendan was in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Lucci was starring on “All My Children” and appearing on “Dancing With the Stars.”
“I was working on both coasts at the same time,” explained Lucci, noting that she and her dancing partner Tony Dovolani would take the red eye from Los Angeles across the country on Tuesday nights after the show. “We would get to New York and take a little nap. Then, I would take a shower, go to the hospital, go dance with Tony, do ‘All My Children’ on Thursday and Friday, and when we would finish shooting, I would go to the late visit with Liza [at] the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.”
From the moment they got Brendan’s diagnosis, Lucci, Huber and the whole family worked together to help the boy live a full life. And it has paid off. Today, he is an active child, who likes to play with his friends and siblings and is also a cub scout
“He’s just a wonderful boy,” boasted Lucci. “He’s so creative and imaginative… with a great sense of humor. I always say about Brendan that he’s got velvet eyes, because when he knows you, he’s very responsive… very warm. So his eyes are very velvety.”
“He also has such an empathy about him, because he had such a hard start to life,” added Huber. “If somebody trips on the playground, he’s the first one to go over and genuinely ask, ‘are you okay?’ and tries to help them up. He’s such a special boy with a really kind soul.”
Huber explained that her son has cerebral palsy spastic diplegia, which is in his legs. Yet, he is able to walk independently, “which I feel very, very grateful for, of course,” she said. “He’s got challenges. He has difficulty getting himself dressed. We’re having difficulty, of course, learning how to swim [and] kicking the legs… But we’re going to get there.”
As for taking their personal story public, Lucci and Huber agreed that since they have “this wonderful platform,” they wanted to “shine the light” on the disorder and it’s many different faces.
“Also, if i’m trying to hide it, what does that say to him?” asked Huber. “I want him to be proud of himself.I don’t want him to ever feel bad at all. I want him to just shout his accomplishments from the rooftop.”
“Liza has a wonderful industrial size trampoline in her backyard with a large fence around, so nobody can come flying out,” shared Lucci. “Brendan has an older brother, a younger sister and another brother, and they all run to the trampoline. He may not be the first one to get there, but he gets there. He rips those braces off, and he’s up there.
“I always tell him, ‘It may not be pretty, but get it done. Do it. Do it however you can do it, but push yourself and do it, because you can,'” added Huber.
Currently, Brendan gets physical therapy five days a week and on occasion he gets Botox treatments. “It releases the muscles in people with cerebral palsy,” noted Huber. There’s also a surgery that we are investigating. So that’s going to be a journey that we’re going to be on.”
“I knew nothing about cerebral palsy and working with UCP of New York City, I started to learn that it’s a large umbrella with many different stages,” added Lucci. “And you can live this fantastic life, because these are modern times and they’re making strides all the time. I love Liza’s attitude, how she is with Brendan. I think this kind of upbringing encourages Brendan to be the best Brendan he can be, and he’s fantastic. He’s a great boy.”
You watch Lucci and Huber’s interview with Dr. Oz here.