WATCH: A Little Boy’s Story of Bravery and Hope

Moira West


When her 9-year-old son Reuben went in for surgery this past June, Catherine Lacey Dodd was optimistic, but prepared for problems. It wasn’t the first time doctors had operated on him. Reuben has CHARGE Syndrome, a genetic disorder that affects the heart, eyes, ears, nose, throat, and slows growth and development. “As a result,” Catherine told us, “Reuben has undergone 21 surgeries, including two open heart surgeries, 2 tracheotomies and surgeries, including those related to improving his airway.”

Catherine and Reuben

But during this surgery, Reuben had a reaction to the anesthesia and doctors had to perform CPR and a tracheotomy to help him breathe. Afterwards, Reuben stayed in intensive care for eight days to recover and ensure he wouldn’t have any more complications and Catherine stayed with him. She began documenting their time together on her iPhone and, once they were home, she turned her images into an Animoto video that she calls “a story of hope, love, laughter, and the strength of his spirit.”

Check out Catherine’s heartwarming video, and then read our interview with her below to find out more about Reuben’s story.

Style: Documentary
Song: “All About Your Heart” (Instrumental) by Mindy Gledhill

MOIRA: Can you tell me a little bit about Reuben?

CATHERINE: Reuben has an incredible zest for life. He’s brave, emotionally strong, and he loves to entertain, to dance and sing. He’s an avid reader, an astute mathematician, and he plays classical piano despite severe deafness. He also swims and enjoys a range of sporting activities despite his lack of balance and sensory challenges. Above all, he gives so much to others. He’s a loyal friend, has a strong sense of integrity and a mature understanding of his own disabilities. He’ll say, “It’s just the way my body works.”

MOIRA: What inspired you to document this period in particular?

CATHERINE: In moments like this, I draw on my still photography as a means of self expression. Capturing the challenges, raw emotions, and events was very cathartic for me.

Reuben with doctors

MOIRA: Can you tell me a little about how you shot the video?

CATHERINE: The video was shot entirely on an iPhone. It was raw capture. I was often balancing my phone with needing to attend to Reuben’s needs. And with our visitors, the phone allowed me to be more sensitive when capturing images than had I used my camera.

MOIRA: And then you put the video together in Animoto?

CATHERINE: I loved the ease with which I could convey our story through Animoto. I’m drawn to technology that simplifies the process, that answers to what I need and could produce a beautifully clean video that focused entirely on the subject. And the music available through Animoto could not have been more fitting.

MOIRA: What did you learn shooting the video?

CATHERINE: I think it’s the message that no matter how dark and foreboding life can feel, how painful the moments, how utterly in despair we can feel at times, we have to find ourselves; we have to seek what it is that brings us light. For me, it was being surrounded by friends, to have Reuben’s school friends face their understandable fears and visit him. We were showered with comforting food and care packages to help us through. So I found light in great darkness. I turned the bleakness of the situation into something that could inspire others, through Reuben’s heroics and through love.

Reuben with visitors

MOIRA: How is Reuben doing now?

CATHERINE: The days after I finished filming the video were the days he first spent at home. Before long, he was aching to be back at school and amongst his friends. He’s fit and healthy and enjoying the fullness of life’s opportunities that summer brings.

*To find out more about Reuben, and to see more of Catherine’s beautiful photography, visit the Catherine Lacey Photography website.

  • Do you have a personal story you’re sharing with video? We’d love to see it! Post the link in the comments below, or reach out on Facebook or Twitter by tagging @Animoto.