Meet Brendan, 180 Medical Patient Advocate

meet brendan 180 medical patient advocate

180 Medical stays dedicated to positively impacting lives through our compassionate service and high-quality catheter, ostomy, and incontinence supplies. Additionally, we love being able to reach out and touch people who are going through hard times in rehabilitation centers and children’s hospitals across the country. One of the ways we do this is through our dedicated team of 180 Medical Patient Advocates, and we’d love for you to meet one of our Patient Advocates today!

Get to Know Brendan

Before Brendan was born, his parents found out he had a condition called spina bifida, which is one of the most common congenital disabilities in the world. This condition occurs when the neural tube doesn’t fully close while a baby is developing in the womb. It can have a range of side effects, including partial or full paralysis. Plus, spina bifida can also sometimes affect the bladder and bowels, leading to the need for intermittent catheterization or incontinence supplies.

With a new baby with spina bifida, Brendan’s parents could have been overwhelmed. Luckily, they received plenty of helpful guidance early on from medical professionals and peers, which helped as Brendan faced numerous surgeries over the years as he grew.

Today, Brendan’s goal as a Patient Advocate for 180 Medical is to keep “paying it forward” by supporting the needs of families and caregivers of children with spina bifida. Keep reading to find out more about Brendan and the amazing work he’s doing!

Brendan, talk to us a bit more about your role as a Patient Advocate at 180 Medical.

Before I began my career as a Patient Advocate, I was with J&R Medical as a Territory Manager in Texas. After J&R was acquired by 180 Medical in 2018, I took over this new role. A typical day in the life for me involves a lot of communication in person and over email, phone, and text. I get to help find new ways for 180 Medical to touch more lives and improve existing relationships.

My day-to-day also gives me a chance to sit down with people from all journeys of life, including patients with new spinal cord injuries, children and adults with spina bifida, and their families. I love getting to mentor them, offer helpful resources, and even talk to them about transitioning to life in a wheelchair or learning to use catheters. Ultimately, my role is one of encouragement and support in finding the right medical supplier for their needs.

What do you love most about your job at 180 Medical?

brendan wheelchair basketball Mavs
Brendan stays active in sports, including playing wheelchair basketball with the Dallas Wheelchair Mavericks

I love that I get to positively influence my community on a broader scale. I am now able to introduce my story to families and clinicians all across the country while also helping to educate on some of the challenges that families like mine may be facing. The ability to give back is something I’ve always wanted to do. Being a Patient Advocate for 180 Medical provides me with daily opportunities to do so, which is exciting!

What drives me every day boils down to one word: HOPE. Hope is a very powerful motivator in our world, and it can mean a lot of different things for a lot of different people. There always seems to be at least one thing that people want to accomplish someday, and I love helping them find that hope. It can be something as simple as learning that even with a disability, they can still fly somewhere on a plane, play a certain sport, or drive a car.

What’s something else on your own bucket list that you hope to accomplish?

Travel, travel, and more travel!! For example, I would love to go back to Australia sometime and visit Ireland, just to name a few. I believe a bucket list should be full of experiences, not things. We only get this one life to live, and I want to make sure I make the most of it.

brendan scuba
Brendan recently became certified in scuba diving. (Photo credit: Brian Kuner)

Tell us a bit more about your life with spina bifida.

brendan wheelchair softball
Brendan loves anything related to sports, including playing wheelchair softball with the Minnesota Rollin’ Twins.

My family has always been my biggest support system ever since I was born. My parents are quite possibly the biggest reason why I am the successful independent person I am today. I owe so much to them. They knew I had a disability, but that did not change them from raising me any differently than my younger brother and sister.

Having spina bifida definitely provided me with a unique perspective of life, but also I truly believe it helped me appreciate the smaller things in life such as independence. The unique perspective is that we are all just trying to be the best versions of ourselves. The only thing we can do in life is to play the hand we’re dealt. With that said, spina bifida is just a condition I was born with. It’s not who I am.

Being born with a disability actually led me to many opportunities, including participation in wheelchair sports, becoming scuba-certified, traveling, and more. For instance, during high school, I had the honor of representing my country twice in wheelchair basketball tournaments in Australia. Through hard work and lots of practice, I was able to sign a full scholarship to play wheelchair basketball for the University of Arizona (graduating with my B.S. in Secondary Education) and for the University of Missouri in Columbia (graduating with my Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis).

What do you love to do in your downtime from work?

I love spending time with my wife Molly and our new baby. My wife is a driving influence in my life to continue to be a better friend, husband, brother, son, and as of just over a month ago, a new father.

Also, I stay active in anything and everything related to sports. I play wheelchair basketball with the Dallas Wheelchair Mavericks as well as wheelchair softball with the Minnesota Rollin’ Twins. Plus, I recently became certified in Scuba Diving through an organization that certifies people with disabilities called Dive Pirates.

Participating in all my hobbies has afforded me the opportunity to improve my quality of life by learning from others in similar situations. Perhaps most importantly, it has allowed me to learn necessary life skills and grow confidence to live a completely independent and successful life as a person with a disability.

brendan and family
Brendan with his wife Molly and their new daughter

What are some challenges you’ve overcome while living with spina bifida?

To be honest, I think everyone living with a disability gets asked this question. To me, the answer is very simple, and it’s the same whether you have a disability or not. We are each given certain circumstances in our lives, and it is up to us individually whether we make the best of them or not.

So really, I don’t keep a list of challenges I have “passed” or anything. Instead, I keep my eye on one goal. Am I better than yesterday? Sure, we all have bad days, but if I am consistently able to answer that question as “yes,” then I am continuing to overcome anything.

What advice would you offer to others who have spina bifida or another disability?

The most valuable thing I can say is that we all have to realize that the value of life and quality of life doesn’t automatically diminish just because we have a disability. Coming from somebody who has traveled the world, graduated college with a Master’s degree, married the woman of my dreams, and recently became a father, I want to let people know that it’s all possible if you are willing to pursue it. Strive to be better than yesterday.

brendan downes quote about disability

We love having Brendan as a valued member of the 180 Medical family. It’s awesome to see the positive impact he makes through sharing his personal experiences and helping families, caregivers, clinicians, and children.

180 Medical is a leading nationwide provider of intermittent catheters, ostomy products, and incontinence supplies. Our goal is to turn lives around with top-quality supplies and caring service on which our customers can rely. Contact us today to find out how we can help you with your or your loved one’s product needs.

Call Toll-Free (877) 688-2729

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About the Author
Jessica is a Marketing Specialist at 180 Medical, and she's been a part of the 180 family for 10 years. Her favorite part of working here is the positive impact we make on our community and in peoples' lives.

She loves cooking plant-based meals at home, listening to podcasts, creative writing, and taking walks with her dogs.