A familiar face is temporarily missing at Rockford (Ala.) Baptist Church, but if she has her way, 9-year-old Avery Brekle will be back soon — just as soon as she recovers from her recent kidney transplant.
Avery, the daughter of Milton and Cindy Brekle, received the kidney Feb. 14 from her sister, Sara, which might not sound so unusual unless you know the Brekle family’s story.
The Brekles have been foster parents for 16 years. During this time, they have fostered nine children long-term and more than 100 kids short-term.
The couple’s foster parenting journey began with their love of children and their desire to reunite sibling groups separated while in the foster care system.
However, with their first set of foster children — a group of three siblings — Cindy and Milton quickly learned that often reunification isn’t possible.
Upon learning of the termination of the parental rights of the children’s parents, the Brekles decided to adopt the trio so the children would not be separated.
Loved and wanted
Four more children placed in the Brekles’ care would eventually be adopted into the family, including Avery.
Throughout their journey, the Brekles’ desire has been to make children feel loved and wanted. Cindy Brekle said the challenges and triumphs of foster care taught them “beyond a shadow of a doubt” that fostering was God’s plan, not theirs.
Through 16 years of fostering, there have been many highs and lows. Milton and Cindy have each faced their own medical problems. Milton has experienced heart issues and other health concerns, while Cindy has twice battled cancer. She is now in remission.
The Brekles’ health care issues helped them grow more knowledgeable about the needs of the children in their care. And they trained to provide care for medically fragile children and those with other therapeutic needs.
As a result, the Brekles have fostered many children with exceptional needs — behavioral, emotional and physical. But Avery’s medical challenges have been significant.
Born with VATER syndrome (a term used when a child is diagnosed with birth defects in three or more body parts), Avery has extra discs in her back, a missing muscle in her eye, extra joints in her fingers and many missing arteries.
She also was born with only one low-functioning kidney.
While receiving educational training on how to care for Avery at Children’s Hospital of Alabama, the Brekles were told finding a kidney match for Avery would likely be a lengthy process. The odds of finding an “exact match” from a non-relative donor were long — about 1 in 100,000.
Avery’s prognosis was poor, they said.
When the family learned of Avery’s desperate need for a kidney, several members stepped forward and offered to donate.
Among those was Sara, the Brekles’ first adoptive child, now an adult with her own family.
Extensive testing revealed that God was again at work — not only was Sara a match, she was a “perfect match.”
The doctors said she couldn’t have been a better match if she was an identical twin, which once again confirmed to Cindy that “it was God’s plan for us to be foster parents. He sent us our first to save our last.”
Jeff Fuller, pastor of Rockford Baptist Church, said it has been “awesome how everything has transpired” in the Brekles’ circumstances.
The sisters’ surgeries took place Feb. 14. Avery’s surgery was at Children’s Hospital and Sara’s was at UAB Hospital. Both are home and doing well. For Avery, recovery will take some time — she still has a bladder reconstruction surgery ahead.
But, as always, the Brekles are trusting God for the next steps.
“There is no end to our blessings,” Cindy Brekle said. “Praise the Lord!”
— This article first appeared in The Alabama Baptist (thealabamabaptist.org), newsjournal of the Alabama Baptist State Convention.