14:36 PM

Defying odds and chasing dreams

By Kristen Banes, American Family Insurance senior business analyst


When the Kristen Banes' daughter was diagnosed with spina bifida during pregnancy, the family resolved to raise her with the same opportunities as anyone else. With support from medical specialists, she grew up to be an accomplished student and athlete. Now a college freshman hoping to become a physical therapist, her diverse abilities have proven advantageous, not limiting.

What is spina bifida? That’s what my husband and I were asking ourselves several weeks into my second pregnancy when results for a routine test came back positive. So began the process of learning everything we could about a birth defect we had never heard of.

Spina bifida is a condition in which an opening in the skin forms along the spine, causing the nerves to be exposed to amniotic fluid, deteriorating them. Symptoms vary based on where the opening is located and can include intellectual disability, movement issues, and partial or full paralysis.

Same opportunities, same expectations

When we first learned the diagnosis, we were shocked. Then fear set in. Doctors told us our baby girl would need to walk with a walker. When they continued to indicate the worst-case scenario, we began to feel frustrated. I vividly remember when they said, “You probably want to know why you; why your child?” To be honest, I didn’t.

I wanted to know what we were going to do to help our daughter be delivered safely and move forward. We would do whatever she needed us to do. Her birth defect isn’t who she is.

We decided to raise her with the same opportunities and expectations as anyone else. If she tried something and couldn’t do it, that would be okay. But she at least had to try.

She has a big brother who always said she could do anything. She knew if her brother did something, she could not only do it, but do it better. That mindset carried her through daycare, school and Girl Scouts.

To read Kristen's full story, visit the American Family Insurance Medium's page

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About the American Family Insurance Group
Based in Madison, Wisconsin, American Family Insurance has been serving customers since 1927. We inspire, protect and restore dreams through our insurance products, exceptional service from our agency owners and employees, community investment and creative partnerships to address societal challenges. We act on our belief in diversity and inclusion by constantly evolving to meet customer needs and preferences. American Family Insurance group is the nation’s 12th-largest property/casualty insurance group, ranking No. 301 on the Fortune 500 list. The group sells American Family-brand products, primarily through exclusive agency owners in 19 states. The American Family Insurance Group also includes CONNECT, powered by American Family Insurance, The General, Homesite and Main Street America Insurance. Across these companies the group has nearly 13,000 employees nationwide.