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Hot spa makes one cool gift

Kristofer B. WakefieldIsaac Bringolf enjoys his hot tub as his parents look on.
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While some of his friends and classmates may have received scooters, Game Boys or radio-controlled cars for Christmas, Isaac Bringolf just might capture the envy of all of them when he returns to his third-grade class at Deer Creek Elementary next week.

You see, 9-year-old Isaac has been spending the last three weeks lounging in his very own hot tub that sits on the patio of his family’s Empire Street home.

However, the tub is more than just some extravagant toy primarily for his parents, Walter and Dana Bringolf. It is Isaac’s gateway to a relaxing, pain-free life.



Isaac, a disarming, precocious boy prone to giving new friends impromptu hugs and kisses, was born with cerebral palsy and a rare form of epilepsy. He has undergone a series of surgeries – the last of which took place in September at the University of California, Los Angeles Medical Center – to remove a portion of his brain tissue. During Isaac’s lifetime, nearly one-half of his brain tissue has been cut away. The left half of his brain now consists mostly of fluid.

On several occasions, doctors told Isaac he would not live because so much of his brain had been removed. He can now read on a third-grade level, his mother said, which is amazing, since the side of his brain that is mostly fluid controls those skills.




Realizing the effects of the epilepsy and that cerebral palsy stiffens and tightens many of Isaac’s muscles – he’s almost paralyzed on the right side of his body – Dana Bringolf contacted the local chapter of the Make-a-Wish Foundation to help give her son a gift both practical and – though the water in the spa isn’t – cool.

Isaac got the idea for the hot tub after spending plenty of time in his grandpa’s spa, though it wasn’t his first request for Make-A-Wish. He wanted to go to Disneyland initially, but after undergoing surgery, doctors suggested it probably would be unwise for Isaac to risk jarring his brain on scary rides.

The Sacramento-Northeastern California chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation granted 170 wishes at the end of its 2002 fiscal year in September, said Debbie Gabelich, development director. Wishes for those with life-threatening illnesses included trips to Disneyland and Disney World, and cruises and visits with stars such as Ozzy Osbourne and James Taylor.

Isaac spends hours in the hot tub each day, splashing with his brother, Joel, 7, and sister, Abigail, 4.

“It’s a family-type activity we can all do together,” Walter Bringolf said. “But he knows it’s his,” Dana Bringolf said. “We made that very clear.”

Isaac was drawn to the spa, with its bubbling jets and soothing temperature, instantly.

“The first thing he asked was, ‘Can I write my name in it?'” Walter Bringolf said.

Since receiving the spa about three weeks ago, Isaac spends several hours a day in swim trunks. He hasn’t missed a day yet.

“It’s been a freeing experience for him, and it’s really neat to have something just for him. Isaac’s sister keeps saying, ‘Isaac’s wish came true! Isaac’s wish came true!'” Dana Bringolf said.

For Isaac Bringolf, whose first name means “child of promise” and “laughter,” the spa is his key to excitement.

“We’ve been in there lots of times,” he said. “Maybe we can write my name in there today.”


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