2013 Miracle Kids
When it comes to their children, Andrew and Stacy Valdez are like other parents – they are proud of every accomplishment, no matter how small.
With three other children, Andrew and Stacy looked forward to the milestones from their youngest son, Hudson. When those “firsts” didn’t come on time, they began to worry. At six months old, Hudson wasn’t doing what he should.
The Valdez’s took Hudson to their pediatrician to find answers. Multiple tests were run to find out what was wrong.
Just after Hudson’s first birthday, his parents received devastating news.
A spinal tap determined that he had Cerebral Folate Deficiency, a central nervous system condition that occurs when there is a deficiency of folate, which is essential for cell growth. Children with this condition suffer from mental and physical developmental issues.
While the diagnosis was hard for Andrew and Stacy to hear, they were encouraged by the promise of progress through medication and therapy.
A treatment plan was formed, and Hudson was prescribed therapy at Hendrick Center for Rehabilitation. Hudson began therapy twice a week in the Hendrick Center for Rehabilitation Pediatric Gym that was provided by funds from CMN. He works with a physical therapist, as well as an occupational and speech therapist.
He also participates in the Hendrick Equine Rehabilitation Opportunity program, another Children’s Miracle Networks Hospital funded program. This program allows Hudson to ride a horse which helps develop and strengthen core muscles to improve all aspects of physical development.
The Valdez’s are grateful that all Hudson’s therapy can be done at Hendrick. With the amount of rehab Hudson requires, it would be extremely difficult for the family if they had to travel outside of Abilene.
Hudson’s progress is slow, but steady. Stacy and Andrew are grateful to the medical professionals at Hendrick Center for Rehabilitation not only for their medical expertise, but for giving them the tools they need to work with Hudson at home to improve and speed up his progress.
At two years old, Hudson is learning how to crawl and pull himself up. The Valdez family is grateful to Hendrick and is looking forward to many more of Hudson’s “firsts.”
It was a Sunday like most Sundays for the Fry family. They all got up and went to church together. This particular Sunday, seven-year-old Jared, came home with a beautiful stepping stone made out of plaster of paris and decorative marbles.
Soon after arriving home, Jared rushed into the kitchen holding his throat and telling his father he swallowed a marble. Jared’s dad remembered the art project from that morning and cringed at the thought of the size of the marble.
The Frys decided to wait and see if the marble would pass on its own, but after an hour Jared began to spit up and they immediately headed to the Hendrick Medical Center Emergency Room.
The x-rays showed that the marble was large and was stuck in his esophagus. The doctor admitted Jared to Hendrick Children’s Hospital to see if it would pass on its own. As the hours went by, Jared’s pain became worse and worse.
The next morning, another x-ray with contrast was performed and the news wasn’t good. The new image showed a tear in Jared’s esophagus. Surgery would be necessary to remove the marble.
After surgery, the Frys were told that Jared also had an infection. Jared returned from surgery with a tube to drain the infection and a feeding tube to nourish him.
After three or four days at Hendrick Children’s Hospital, Jared began to feel better. His parents were able to take shifts and be with Jared 24-hours-a-day, while continuing to take care of Jared’s brother, Jonathan. They could stay together as a family, and other family members and friends were able to visit.
Jared is completely recovered and back to being a normal kid. There's nothing good about a child being in the hospital, but the support and education from the medical staff and child life specialist at Hendrick Children’s Hospital made it more comfortable for the entire Fry family.
It all started last February, when this lively 15-year-old cheerleader was struck with a lingering illness. After 10 days, Blair Harris was admitted to Hendrick Children’s Hospital with dehydration. Blood tests were performed, but no conclusive diagnosis could be made. After consulting Abilene gastroenterologist, Dr. Yogeshkuma Patel, a colonoscopy was ordered.
2012 Miracle Kids
The diagnosis became obvious after the procedure. Blair had Ulcerative Colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease that affects the lining of the large intestine (colon) and rectum. This painful disease is chronic and requires continued treatments.
The stress of the diagnosis was difficult for Blair and her parents. But Blair kept a positive attitude. Even after 10 months of steroids that resulted in a 45-pound weight gain, Blair remained upbeat, choosing to focus on the bigger picture.
It was comforting to Blair and her parents to know that they could stay in Abilene for her treatments. The already stressful diagnosis would not be compounded by the stress of traveling out of town to and from medical appointments and treatments.
Blair has been able to maintain some normalcy to her life, and continues to attend school without disruption. She is surrounded by family and friends who are able to support every step of the way.
With help from the staff at Hendrick Children’s Hospital, Blair has learned how to re-purpose and re-define her dreams and interests.
Many of the services that Blair uses were paid for by Children’s Miracle Network donations. Having these services available are essential to helping young patients recover and begin to resume a normal lifestyle.
Honesty & Brydarius Spotwood
In the course of one day, a person will breathe 17,000 - 23,000 times. For most, this is an easy involuntary reflex. But for others, it can feel almost impossible.
The Texas Department of Health reports that asthma in Texas is a growing chronic health concern. And recently, it’s been reported that more than 500,000 Texas children have lifetime asthma.
No one knows this better than Victoria Davis-Hickson. She is no stranger to the devastating effects of asthma in a child.
In December, Victoria’s 9-year-old daughter, Honesty, began having an asthma attack. Honesty had been diagnosed with asthma, so they both knew what to do. After several breathing treatments, Honesty wasn’t responding to the medication. This attack was worse than any other she had suffered. Honesty passed out on the end of the bed, was turning blue and wasn’t breathing. Her mother frantically tried to revive her but couldn’t. Victoria began breathing for her lifeless daughter, as her husband drove them to the Emergency Room in Stamford.
Honesty was taken by helicopter from Stamford Memorial Hospital to Hendrick Medical Center, where she received the specialized care she needed. The many doctors, nurses, medical staff and emergency personnel helped Honesty through her recovery every step of the way. After several days, she was released to go home.
But the story doesn’t end here. In May, Honesty’s seven-year-old brother, Brydarius, was admitted into Hendrick Children’s Hospital with osteomyelitis, a bone infection in his knee. While there, Brydarius suffered his first asthma attack. No one even knew he had asthma. The attack was so severe that he was admitted into Hendrick Children’s Hospital Pediatric Intensive Care Unit for two days. After he was discharged from the PICU, he spent another three days in the hospital before finally going home.
Each year, Children’s Miracle Network helps provide supplies and monies to the Hendrick Asthma Education Program. These funds allow asthma educators to visit Abilene Independent School District schools to teach children how to better manage their asthma. During the summer, CMN funds Hendrick’s Asthma Summer Day Camp.
For Victoria, Children’s Miracle Network was a true blessing and miracle for her whole family.
It was an exciting time for the Huffington family. Two and half years ago, they found out they were having twins. They were even more excited when they found out that one of the twins was a girl.
So, when Dayna’s water broke one Sunday night in May, they hurried to Hendrick Medical Center to expand their family by two. After a successful emergency c-section, Dayna and Mark had two beautiful babies: Creed and Alexa. Soon after, though, doctors noticed some problems with Alexa. After testing, they discovered Alexa had Down Syndrome.
Since babies born with Down Syndrome can also have other complications, doctors did more extensive diagnostic testing and discovered Alexa had a life-threatening defect called aortic coarctation, in which the aorta is closed off and doesn’t allow blood flow to the heart.
Alexa was flown to Fort Worth for delicate heart surgery. After several weeks, she was cleared to come home and join her family.
If it hadn’t been for the well-trained medical staff and advanced equipment at Hendrick Children’s Hospital, Alexa’s defect could have gone unnoticed, and the outcome would have been much different.
After the Huffington’s experience at Hendrick Medical Center and seeing firsthand how the most up-to-date equipment and training saves lives, they became quick advocates for Children’s Miracle Network, the organization that supplies these vital needs.
Today, Alexa is a happy, healthy child in a houseful of brothers. She will continue to be monitored by her pediatrician and cardiologist, but life is good, and busy, at the Huffington’s.
Spencer Gassett is a star on and off the football field. His athleticism and heart make him a special kid. With the help of Hendrick Children’s Hospital, Spencer fought back against tremendous adversity to play the game he loves.
Last summer, Spencer was competing in a 7-on-7 football game. He was running a route, like he had done so many times before, when he was hit by a Safety and knocked to the ground. Coaches came running to him and told him to lie still. When Spencer took out his mouthpiece and started to bleed from his nose and mouth, he knew it was bad.
Spencer was rushed to an Eastland hospital, where he was told he had some broken bones. Doctors there sent him to Hendrick Medical Center, where physicians discovered he had approximately 30 broken bones in his face, as well as a broken collarbone.
Spencer’s mother, Kristi, was out of town at the time of the accident but came rushing home after a frantic call from Spencer’s brother, Dustin.
Surgeons operated on his face first, not knowing the full extent of the damage to his collarbone. His mouth had to be wired shut.
An additional CT scan revealed that Spencer’s collarbone was broken in two, dangerously close to his aorta. It needed to be corrected as soon as possible. Cardiologists were standing by in the surgery suite in case open heart surgery was necessary.
Thankfully, Spencer’s surgeons were able to repair his collar bone without any complications to his heart.
For the next two weeks, Spencer spent his time in the Hendrick Children’s Hospital, where he was cared for by specially-trained medical staff. He was unable to go outside, which was very difficult for this young man, but the nurses, Child Life Specialist, his family, friends and teammates kept him distracted enough to endure the long days and nights.
The doctors questioned whether Spencer would ever set foot on a football field again, but Spencer’s sheer determination and fight proved everyone wrong.
Once the doctors cleared him to begin working out, Spencer started the long road back to his football-playing days. It took all football season, but Spencer was back to 100 percent by the playoffs.
The Gassett family put their trust in Hendrick Medical Center and Hendrick Children’s Hospital, and with their help and a lot of hard work, Spencer reached the ultimate goal of playing for a state championship.
It’s said that friendships often come out of the most unlikely situations. In Brandon Cassilas’ case, his bond with a group of medical professionals at Hendrick Children’s Hospital is one of those situations.
Just before Christmas last year, five-year-old Brandon and his mother, Martha, became extremely ill. They were soon diagnosed with Salmonella. As the days passed, Martha began to improve, but Brandon became sicker and sicker. He had a high fever, nausea, diarrhea and severe stomach pain.
Dr. Jimmy Strong, Brandon’s pediatrician, admitted him into Hendrick Children’s Hospital for dehydration and to be more carefully monitored. After a day or two, Brandon’s symptoms began to subside. Then, suddenly, Brandon began to experience agonizing pain in his abdomen.
After additional diagnostic testing, Dr. Strong discovered Brandon’s appendix had ruptured. He was rushed into surgery, where the appendix and toxic infection were removed.
After 10 days, Brandon was released from the hospital to go home and finish recovering. Brandon left the hospital with mixed emotions. He was happy to be going home but sad to leave his new friends.
Today, Brandon is fully recovered, but his new friendships didn’t end after he was discharged from Hendrick Children’s Hospital. In fact, Brandon continues to say thank you in his own way to the medical staff that helped him get better. He visits regularly, bringing donuts to the nurses. He’s happy to be at the hospital as a friend and not as a patient.
2011 Miracle Kids
After spending only a few minutes with Christopher Pannell, it’s not hard to figure out he loves spending time outdoors. It wasn’t anything out of the ordinary for this energetic six-year-old to be playing outside at a friend’s house one hot summer day last year. However, as Chris was crossing a fence in their backyard, he was struck in the leg by a rattlesnake.
Chris’ parents were out to dinner when they received the frantic call from the babysitter. As they sped down the dirt road toward their son, they worried what they would find.
When they arrived, they put Chris in the truck and drove to Haskell Memorial Hospital. Thankfully, the hospital had just received two doses of anti-venom that morning, which they quickly administered to little Chris.
Doctors there knew they had to get Chris to Hendrick Medical Center if there was a chance for him to survive. They loaded him into the ambulance and began the 40-minute trip to Abilene.
Once there, trauma center doctors assessed the situation, which wasn’t good. Chris’ leg was swelling quickly, and his foot was turning purple. Emergency surgery was the only answer.
Chris was taken into the operating room where the surgeons drained the venom and opened the wound so that the toxins wouldn’t eat away the tissue and muscle in his leg. Finally, surgeons came out with the good news: Chris’ prognosis was good, and his leg could be saved. Chris spent the next 10 days recovering at Hendrick Children’s Hospital with his family by his bedside.
Today, the large scar on Chris’ leg is the only reminder for him that he was bitten. For his parents, the scar is a reminder of how precious life is and how lucky they are that the experts at Hendrick Medical Center were so close to home when it counted the most.
It’s not uncommon for the flu to strike entire families during the winter months. That’s exactly what happened to Jayci Barber’s family last January. Days passed, and everyone was back to normal except for Jayci, who seemed to be getting worse.
When Jayci didn’t bounce back, her grandmother took her to see her pediatrician, Dr. Tuegal. They were told she had fluid on her right lung that would need to be drained.
After the procedure, Jayci’s condition improved, but only for a short time. Her health was deteriorating rapidly, and emergency surgery was necessary. Fluid had built up in both lungs, and the right lung had collapsed. She was also suffering from an infection inside her lungs. Four chest tubes were inserted to help her breathe.
After Jayci’s condition stabilized, she was care-flighted to Fort Worth to a partnering Children’s Miracle Network Hospital, where she received additional intensive care. Eventually, Jayci’s fever broke, beginning her long road to recovery.
Jayci made it home in time to finish the school year with her classmates. She gets stronger each day, thanks to the quick response and expertise of the doctors and nurses at Hendrick Children’s Hospital. Jayci is back on track to become the same active young lady she was months ago.
In 2009, Hayden McCray was at the pool with his family and friends enjoying the Fourth of July holiday. This was just another day at the pool with lots of splashing and playing catch. At some point, the 15-year-old was grazed with a Nerf football. Fifteen minutes later, Hayden began complaining of a headache, and within minutes he was overcome with pain. He eventually went limp, and when the ambulance arrived, he was taken to Hendrick Medical Center’s Trauma Center.
The doctor ordered an MRI and came out with news that seemed almost unbelievable to Hayden’s parents, Robert and Cherie. Hayden would need an operation immediately. Dr. Brown, the neurosurgeon on call, was paged and seemed to almost immediately appear in the hall. Cherie said she believes she saw angel wings on him as he walked toward her. Dr. Brown explained that Hayden had an AVM, arteriovenous malformation - a tangle in the blood vessels of the brain that had probably been there since birth. It caused a hemorrhage, and without brain surgery, Hayden would not survive.
The McCray’s said goodbye to their son and put their trust in God, Dr. Brown and the medical staff at Hendrick Medical Center. The hemorrhage was removed, the vessels clamped, the bleeding stopped and the pressure relieved from Hayden’s brain. After he was stabilized, Hayden was flown by air ambulance to a partnering Children’s Miracle Network hospital in Fort Worth, where he continued specialized pediatric treatment.
When it was time to come home for rehabilitation, the McCray’s knew where they wanted to go for therapy: Hendrick Center for Rehabilitation. The therapists worked up a plan of care for Hayden that included playing baseball, riding a bike, playing with friends and running.
After a year of intense physical, occupational and speech therapy, Hayden has regained his balance and learned to walk, throw and run once more. The pediatric gym, filled with equipment furnished by Children’s Miracle Network, was the perfect place for Hayden to receive his rehab.
It’s been almost three years since Hayden began this journey, and his recovery continues. Each day he improves, and each day the McCray family is thankful for the expertise at Hendrick Medical Center and a doctor who has wings.
2010 Miracle Kids
When Shelly Diaz was only 24 weeks pregnant, she delivered a baby boy she named Jayden. A delivery so early into a pregnancy is extremely dangerous, so it was no surprise that Jayden was born with a host of problems. The most severe issue was the immaturity of his lungs.
Because of the severity, Jayden spent the first 10 months of his life in a Fort Worth hospital. These months were very difficult for Shelly. She was away from her family and friends during a time when she needed them the most. She couldn’t wait to bring her baby home, but first Jayden would have to be strong enough.
At 10 months, Jayden was taken off the ventilator and underwent a tracheostomy, a surgical procedure in which a small tube is inserted into the wind pipe. Shelly would finally get to bring her baby home. Being sent home with a “trach” is risky, so it was vital there was a healthcare community to take care of Jayden’s needs. Hendrick Children’s Hospital met that need.
Since returning to Abilene, Dr. Greg Tuegel and the staff at Hendrick Children’s Hospital are like family to Shelly and little Jayden. There are many visits to the doctor’s office and to the hospital as Jayden continues his long road of recovery.
Jayden is progressing well, and recently his trach was removed. Today, Jayden’s asthma and lung infections are constant reminders of the obstacles he has faced in such a short lifetime. But with Hendrick Children’s Hospital only minutes away, his mother is able to rest a little easier. Shelly remains optimistic Jayden will continue improving, and she is just enjoying being his mom.
Today, Nathan Martin is like any other five-year-old. He’s active and loves the playground. But last year, what started out as a treatable virus, quickly became a life-threatening illness.
Nathan was diagnosed with Type A Influenza. At first, the medication he was prescribed worked well. But when Nathan suddenly took a turn for the worse, he was immediately admitted to Hendrick Children’s Hospital.
For 12 days, Nathan’s parents sat by his bed and tried to comfort him. Nathan, who already suffered from asthma, had developed pneumonia and a bad infection in his chest. Surgeons had to insert a chest tube to help Nathan breathe.
Amy and Joseph Martin watched as their son endured two difficult weeks in the hospital. Even breathing was hard work for Nathan. With Hendrick Children’s Hospital located so closely to their home, the Martin’s were able to comfort their son, as well as care for their other young son.
Two weeks in the hospital is a long time for anyone, especially an energetic little boy. But Nathan found joy in the daily visits by Hendrick therapy dogs from Pet Enhanced Therapy Services (P.E.T.S). These four-legged volunteers helped Nathan get through those long days.
Now, life at the Martin’s home is back to normal. But, this family will never be the same. This experience has taught them to relish the little things.
In 2009, Adam and Mandy Wood were busy planning a family vacation to Disneyland. In a few short weeks, this family of four would be enjoying time with Mickey Mouse. They had no idea their lives were about to change.
Carter, an energetic three-year-old at the time, began complaining of ankle pain. With an active toddler, Mandy and Adam weren’t too concerned and treated it like any other small injury. But within 48 hours, when it became unbearable for Carter to walk, the Woods knew something was terribly wrong.
They rushed Carter to their pediatrician, Dr. Robert Wiley. Dr. Wiley ordered an MRI which showed an infection in Carter’s bone and muscle around his heel. The trip to Disneyland would have to wait.
Carter was immediately admitted to Hendrick Children’s Hospital and began a treatment of high-powered antibiotics. If the problem was not taken care of quickly, the painful infection could have long-lasting and even life-threatening results.
Six days later, Carter was allowed to go home, but soon returned to Hendrick Children’s Hospital with an abscess that would require surgery.
During his weeklong stay, the hospital staff did their best to take Carter ‘s mind off the pain, distracting him with puzzles and games of bedpan basketball.
Today, Carter has made a full recovery. Mandy attributes his healing to prayer, the medical staff and the support group they surrounded themselves with during their time in need.