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Great Falls family coping with loss of son hopes to give wheelchair to someone who needs it

Posted at 10:44 PM, Sep 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-21 00:46:46-04

GREAT FALLS- Tanner Mullens was born on May 14, 1999. His life was cut short due to a disability that doctors could never fully explain.

“He went from a three-month-old baby holding his head up, to a one-month-old baby who couldn’t do anything. He lost his sight and his hearing in the first six months of his life,” Tanner’s mom Barbara said.

After many doctor appointments, Barbara came to terms that this was the life her family was going to live.

“Living every day not knowing whether or not your son is going to wake up the next day, it’s tough,” Mullens said.

“We never skipped a beat. Just always did everything that we wanted to do. We never let his disability hold us back. We always just did everything that we wanted to do, and Tanner was just always part of it,” Mullens said.

But the family of four did not let this stop them. Barbara recalls taking the kids camping, four wheeling, fishing, anything you could imagine, they did it.

Tanner was expected to live to the age of two, but beat the odds and lived until he was 12. Tanner would have celebrated his 19th birthday this year.

And having a mother’s instinct, Barbara always wanted to fight for her son. She knew she couldn’t help him, so she took on another battle.

“When we did find out that he couldn’t, that he wasn’t going to make it, I thought well if we are never going to get a diagnosis, then I got to do something that is fighting for his life. So I started taking martial arts.  It was really important to me. I couldn’t save him so I just wanted to fight. Fight for his right to be alive.”

Now, after holding on to Tanner’s wheelchair for the past seven years, she is ready to give it to a family who needs it.

“To me, I just think of other families that maybe just found out their child has disabilities, or they are not sure where to go or their resources or what they can do, by donating this to a family that needs it, I’m helping someone else. And that’s a huge thing to me. I really want to help people,” Mullens said.

The chair is re-adjustable and can be for ages 10-17. It’s a Zippie chair by Quickie.

The Mullens are also going to donate a smart vest. The vest is an XS.

If you wish to receive the chair or the vest, you can email our reporter at

Story by Elizabeth Transue, MTN News