Alex was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect before he was even born. His mother was still pregnant when her doctors noticed that something was wrong and told her to go to The Heart Center at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children. At six days old, Alex endured his first open heart surgery and then spent six weeks in the Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (PCICU).
The Heart Center at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children had vital equipment like medicine pumps, life support machines and respiratory machines that helped save Alex’s life. These are the kinds of things Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals makes possible. Thanks to the care Alex received, he is now a healthy eight year old boy!
At nine years old, Alex was your typical young boy – full of energy! When his parents started to notice that change, and he complained of not feeling well, they went straight to their local hospital, which eventually transferred Alex to Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children.
Alex was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia, a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. After enduring more than three years of chemotherapy, 8 radiation treatments, a couple dozen spinal chemotherapy treatments and countless medications, Alex was finally cancer free!
While his journey was long, Alex was always grateful for the CMN Hospitals’ funds that helped the Child Life Department keep the playrooms in the hospital up-to-date. During his visits, he loved playing video games in play rooms, but especially liked it when he could engage and play with other kids by playing board games, Legos and action figures.
No one expects a medical crisis. Yet, the unexpected happened a few days after Christmas 2009, when Alexis woke up screaming with an excruciating headache. “She just passed out in my arms,” her mom, Kathryn tearfully recalls, “The light just went out of her eyes.” In little over an hour Alexis was in surgery at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children. She had a cerebral hemorrhage on the left side of her brain. Diagnosed with arteriovenous malformations (AVMs), there were no guarantees that Alexis would wake up from the coma or retain her motor skills if she did wake up. Every day there were obstacles to overcome. Miraculously after three surgeries, Alexis did wake up and gained full mobility. Today she is a normal, healthy thirteen year old girl who loves horses, reading, camping and swimming. Her mom, Kathryn is so grateful. Her daughter’s life was saved by the quick response and expertise of the hospital’s doctors, nurses and everyone who supports them. “The care was sincere—earnest. You just know everyone is here for a reason. They are passionate about what they do.”
Andrew & Katelyn
Andrew & Katelyn
Rose Mary was 31-weeks pregnant with twins Katelyn and Andrew when she was admitted to Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children after her water broke unexpectedly. Fortunately, the skilled medical team were able to delay their birth, giving the twins an extra four weeks to develop in the womb.
At 35 weeks, Andrew and his twin sister Katelyn were born. Andrew was diagnosed with spina bifida, hydrocephalus, and club feet and had his first spinal surgery within 24 hours of his birth. Ten days later he had a shunt put in his head to drain the fluid that was putting pressure on his brain. By age 3, Andrew had endured 12 surgeries, weekly castings on his feet, countless tests and hours of therapy.
Fortunately, just a few months shy of his 3rd birthday, he took his first independent steps and has not stopped walking since. Andrew's physical therapist used to say Andrew's best physical therapy was Katelyn. She played a crucial part in his developmental recovery.
Thanks to Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals’ funds that benefit Arnold Palmer Hospital, the Child Life Specialists were able to provide distraction tools to make painful experiences better. Andrew lights up when the Child Life team visits his room and can really sense the care and compassion they have for him.
Due to low fetal heart rate, Arden was born at 32 weeks via emergency C-section. Only six weeks later, she began having difficulty breathing and x-rays showed her heart had grown to fill ¾ of her chest cavity, and was crushing her lungs.
Arden was transported to a Children’s Miracle Network Hospital where she was placed on a ventilator to keep her alive. Following multiple tests, doctors knew only a heart transplant would save her life. Arden had been on the national transplant list for only three weeks when doctors determined that her severe complications gave her roughly one week to live. Thankfully, Arden’s parents received a life-changing phone call in that week - Arden was going to receive a miracle in the form of a new heart.
Following her transplant, Arden was also diagnosed with a rare and progressive mitochondrial disease. Because her condition is complex, Arden spends a lot of time at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children receiving specialized treatment and various therapies.
From the ventilator that helped save her life to the toys and activities that make each hospital visit a little brighter, Arden and her family continue to feel the impact of CMN Hospitals.
Doctors noticed a slow heartbeat during a routine visit one week before Aryelle was to be born. Her mom was sent to Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies for an in-depth sonogram and soon after delivered Aryelle by cesarean section.
Not long after delivery, doctors discovered the bottom two ventricles of Aryelle’s heart were switched. She was diagnosed with Hypoplastic Right Ventricle and would need multiple open heart surgeries to correct her congenital heart defect. Her first open heart surgery at five days old led to complications that kept her on a ventilator for three more weeks, and in the hospital for nearly two months.
Thankfully, her second open heart surgery at six months old was successful and she was out of the hospital in just five days. She has had one additional open heart surgery since then, and her cardiologist and pulmonologist at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children regularly monitor her progress.
More than $1.5 million of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals’ funds have been utilized by The Heart Center at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children to fund surgical, diagnostic and catheterization lab equipment to help more kids like Aryelle.
After enduring five heartbreaking miscarriages, Matt and Amy were overjoyed to hear they were pregnant and expecting healthy, twin boys. But just 21 weeks into the pregnancy, that excitement turned into anxiety when Amy was told she was at risk for pre-term labor.
Immediately admitted to Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies, Matt & Amy’s medical team hoped to delay labor and give the babies the best chance of survival. Sadly, their first son, Baby Brandon, was born just one week later at only 22 weeks into the pregnancy, alive but too small to survive.
All of the focus was now on their second son, Baby Ashton, and on Amy’s birthday, Day 1 of the 23rd week of pregnancy, he was born. Weighing only 1 pound and 4 ounces, Ashton arrived on the earliest day considered viable for babies to survive. Treated in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), Ashton was immediately intubated to receive oxygen and help him breathe.
The day Ashton was extubated was the first time Matt & Amy heard their son cry, which they describe as the most beautiful music to their ears. After 111 days, Baby Ashton had his oxygen line removed and began breathing 100% on his own. This was not the “expected” journey for a baby born at just 23 weeks, but Matt & Amy credit that miracle to the exceptional care Ashton received from his medical team – a team they believe loves their son as much as they do.
Today Ashton is an energetic and playful 3 year old who can usually be found playing at his parent’s ice cream shop.
In 2013, after Ayden began experiencing seizures, doctors discovered a large mass tumor connected to his central nervous system as well as cluster tumors in the optic pathways of his eyes. Emergency brain surgery also revealed a cancerous tumor on his heart.
Ayden began chemotherapy at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, and after one and a half years of treatment and 17 surgeries, Ayden was deemed stable. Although his tumor left him blind, his family is grateful for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals’ funds that helped him receive the most advanced medical care possible, saving his life.
Bellah was born 8 weeks premature with a genetic condition which caused her to lose most of her intestines, leaving her with Short Bowel Syndrome. At just 3 days old, she underwent surgery to remove her failing intestines and had a central line placed to provide IV nutrition. Over the next 2 years, Bellah battled multiple life threatening infections and sepsis, and underwent more surgery to help improve her digestive function.
One of her latest procedures, a surgery in the summer of 2016, required Bellah to stay in the hospital for more than two months while her body struggled to recover. As a patient of Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children for many years, she and her family consider the medical team and hospital staff a “second family.”
Thanks to the funds raised through Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, the Critical Care Transport Team and Child Life program at Arnold Palmer Hospital have had the resources they need to help Bellah and have had a deep impact on her medical journey. Bellah is currently awaiting a five organ transplant due to her loss of intestines, limited access for IV nutrition, and infection risk. Despite the enormous amount she has been through, her smile and joy impact everyone she meets.
Brayden was a healthy, active 5-year old who enjoyed playing sports and spending time with his family. All of that changed in April 2015 after some abnormal swelling in his face led to a visit to his local pediatric emergency hospital. Within hours, doctors had diagnosed him with Leukemia and transferred Brayden to Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children.
During his first 3 days at Arnold Palmer Hospital, Brayden underwent several procedures including port placement and started receiving platelet transfusions and chemotherapy. Since his treatment started, he has overcome many obstacles such as a fungal infection, wearing leg braces, worsening vision and hyperpigmentation on his skin. He takes medications daily, has weekly visits to the oncology clinic and monthly laser treatments.
Thanks to funds raised through Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children has the latest equipment for Brayden’s physical and occupational therapy sessions, and he can even receive music therapy during clinic visits. Today, Brayden is strong enough to play baseball and basketball and though he has a long road ahead, he is winning the battle.
Caden was first seen at the Howard Phillips Center, part of Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children when he was just nine months old for developmental delays. He was ultimately diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Through the Early Steps program at the Howard Phillips Center, Caden received speech, occupational, behavioral and physical therapy. Early intervention allowed Caden to be mainstreamed in the public school system and to be able to carry on a normal childhood. He is an avid Boy Scout, loves to play video games, and is even a Champion of the CMN Hospitals Extra Life program in Orlando!
Carson & Kendall
Carson & Kendall
Heather was only 20 weeks into her pregnancy with twins Kendall and Carson when she went into labor and thought she would lose her babies. But thanks to the specialized team at Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies, doctors were able to delay delivery and keep the twins in utero for an additional 47 days, eventually delivering at 26 weeks.
Kendall and Carson were immediately placed on life support in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Winnie Palmer Hospital, which was just the beginning of their journey. Both twins had an intraventricular brain hemorrhage and were diagnosed with chronic lung disease. Carson was also battling hydrocephalus and had to have a shunt placed to drain the fluid which was creating pressure on brain.
Today, Kendall and Carson receive physical and occupational therapies, and their parents are grateful that their babies born weighing less than two pounds are happy, healthy 2nd graders!
Delaney’s mom is a nurse, so she has always had someone who knows just what to do when she’s not feeling well. One night though, Delaney woke up in the middle of the night unable to breath and told her mom she felt like she was dying. After being taken to the hospital closest to her house, doctors told her family that Delaney’s airway was the size of a toothpick and diagnosed her with croup. She was immediately transported to Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children where she could get the specialized care she needed.
Thanks to Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals’ funds, the Pediatric Critical Care Transport Team has a special ambulance for kids in emergencies just like this. This Mobile Intensive Care Unit gives kids the extra attention they need on the way to the hospital - and they are the only hospital in the area with this specialty service!
When Eli was 14 weeks old, his family was in a terrible car accident that killed his father and left Eli in very critical condition. Doctors predicted that if Eli survived, he would never walk, talk or even be able to express emotion.
Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals funds helped purchase the necessary equipment to help save his life in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children. Thanks to the help of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children now has the only Level One Pediatric Trauma Center in Central Florida. They have the most advanced medical equipment and the best team of doctors to help save kids of all ages with life-threatening injuries.
Today, not only can Eli walk and talk, but he also enjoys reading, swimming and watching Star Wars!
Emma was born in January of 2005 and immediately her parents knew something was wrong. Emma was transported to Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children for further testing. Doctors discovered that Emma had multiple heart defects. The primary defect is called Transposition of the Great Vessels. Emma’s pulmonary artery and aorta were switched and she was not receiving oxygen-rich blood; her heart circulated oxygen-depleted blood through her body.
To correct the problems Emma would require multiple open-heart surgeries over a number of years. At one week old Emma had her first heart surgery when her heart was the size of her tiny fist. In July 2005, at six months old, Emma had her second surgery which begin the process of redirecting blood flow through her heart.
In June 2008, at 3 ½ years old, Emma had her third corrective surgery. This was to be Emma’s last surgery for a number of years but there were complications during the procedure and in recovery. One major complication doctors discovered was that Emma’s body began rejecting Heparin. Blood test showed that Emma has a blood rare condition called Heparin Induced Thrombocytopenia which has only been found in a handful of children. It was also discovered that Emma had an aortic tear which had to be repaired with a fourth heart surgery just four weeks after her last procedure.
After 37 days in the hospital Emma was finally well enough to go home with her parents, Chuck and Shannon along with younger brother Brandon.
Today Emma continues to defy the odds and is such a blessing to all who know her. Thanks to the staff at Arnold Palmer Hospital and the support of the Children’s Miracle Network Emma has the world at her fingertips.
Hannah was in pre-school when an unusual spot on her stomach landed her in her pediatrician’s office. She was immediately referred to Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children and at only 21 months old, she was diagnosed with Stage 5 Wilms Tumor, a type of cancer affecting her kidneys.
Hannah underwent surgery to remove one of her kidneys and one-third of the remaining kidney. Following the surgery and many weeks of chemotherapy, Hannah was cancer free when she was two years old.
On October 25, 2016, a routine follow-up revealed the return of her cancer. Just shy of her 10th birthday, Hannah began another round of chemotherapy treatments and regular hospital visits. In spite of the challenges she faces, she continues to battle cancer with poise, laughter, grace and faith.
With help from Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals’ funds, the oncology unit at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children had kid-friendly exam tables, IV poles, monitors and head covers to comfort Hannah while she was undergoing chemotherapy. CMN Hospitals’ funds also support the Child Life program which provides activities and education to help Hannah cope with her diagnosis.
There are some dates you never forget. For Isaiah’s parents, that date is October 16, 2012 – the day they found out their two-year-old boy had a cancerous brain tumor.
Isaiah was brought to the Emergency Department at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children due to terrible headaches and eventually made the hospital his home for 10 weeks. During this time, he went through a 12-hour brain surgery, received 33 radiation treatments, had a tracheotomy and was fed through a feeding tube to keep him alive.
Today, Isaiah is cancer free! He loves visiting the dolphins and whales at SeaWorld, as well as playing Legos, bowling and swimming with his older brothers. From his time spent with the Music Therapy staff and in the Child Life playrooms (his favorite part of the hospital), to the oncologist that helped save his life, Isaiah and his family benefited from the funds raised by Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.
Finding out the gender of your baby is an exciting time. But on the day Jack’s parents learned they were expecting a baby boy, they also discovered that he had a severe heart defect. At a time that should have been filled with excitement Jack’s parents were told to prepare for the worst.
In an effort to save his mother’s life from rising blood pressure, Jack was delivered prematurely at 26 weeks weighing only 17 ounces. Although Jack’s doctors said he only had a 10% chance of survival, his parents felt blessed that he had been born alive and never gave up hope that he would continue to fight.
Jack spent the first 4 months of life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies. Throughout Jack’s journey he endured several life-threatening hurdles including open heart surgery, laser surgery on both eyes, and a brain bleed that required five operations.
Today Jack enjoys being in school and playing ice hockey and tee ball with his friends. He may be small but he is full of life and has a BIG personality. Jack and his parents are grateful for the miracles that were made possible because of the support the hospitals receive from Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.
Every day, Justice shows progress and her family is so thankful to the staff at Winnie Palmer Hospital and Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals for funds used to purchase the medical equipment that helped save and change her life in and out of the NICU.
When JP was born, he could barely move, constantly slept and wasn’t eating regularly. It wasn’t until he was nine months old that he was able to hold his own head up, and that’s when doctors began to fear that JP would never be able to walk.
JP underwent surgery at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children and was referred to specialists at The Howard Phillips Center for Children & Families who recommended occupational and physical therapy. Just before his second birthday, JP was diagnosed with Potocki-Lupski Syndrome (PTLS), a very rare health condition linked to the duplication of chromosome 17. PTLS causes many of the complications that JP experienced, including his developmental delays, speech problems, low muscle tone and feeding difficulties.
Thanks to his therapy at The Howard Phillips Center JP can walk, run and dance with his seven siblings. With the funds raised through Children’s Miracle Network, The Howard Phillips Center had the staff, technology and equipment to help him overcome challenges in his development. Today, JP continues to surpass all expectations. He runs, swims and even dances, and his smile and laughter bring joy to everyone he meets!
Justice was born 17 weeks early, weighing one pound, five ounces. A surviving twin, she was able to finally leave the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies after 92 days, and went home an oxygen machine and a gastric feeding tube.
Justice battled Chronic Lung Disease and had five cardiac surgeries during the first 20 months of her life to repair the hole in her heart. She continues to have cardiac catheterizations every other month, and attends therapy sessions for help with eating, speech and movement. When she was 4 years old, Justice learned to walk and run around, and since then, she shows no signs of slowing down!
Kylie’s parents had just learned they were expecting a baby girl when a phone call one hour later changed everything. There were concerns about the baby’s heart and the doctors asked them to go to Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies immediately.
After a series of test, doctors discovered that only half of Kylie’s heart was developing properly and determined that she would need to undergo at least three open heart surgeries to help correct the problem once she was born.
When she was 20 days old, Kylie had her first heart surgery, followed by one more at six months old and her final surgery occurred just before she turned three. During these years she spent a lot of time at the hospital, and thanks to funds raised by Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals’, The Heart Center at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children had the most advanced medical equipment to offer best in class care to help save Kylie’s life.
Today Kylie is doing remarkable. She loves coloring, riding her bike and pretending to be a princess.
When Lauren was born at Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies, she appeared to be perfectly healthy. Her dad recalls this day as the proudest day of his life. Lauren’s parents felt as though their world shattered after hearing a congenital heart defect was discovered through standard testing. At three days old, Lauren was transferred across the street to Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children where she underwent open heart surgery.
Only days later, Lauren was released from the hospital and continues to flourish every day. The level of care that Lauren received led to her miraculous recovery and is the reason why she is alive today. Lauren’s family is so thankful that Arnold Palmer Hospital was able to perform the lifesaving surgery their daughter needed, allowing them to stay close to home throughout the journey.
At three weeks old, Makaylah was admitted to Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children after she experienced difficulties drinking that caused her to struggle breathing, sometimes even turning blue. Doctors discovered severe reflux going into her lungs and performed her first major gastrointestinal surgery when she was four weeks old. To prevent reflux and to protect her lungs, Makaylah received all of her nutrition through a feeding tube for the first year of life.
Before she was two years old, she began experiencing life-threatening grand mal seizures which stopped her from breathing and Makaylah’s journey became one new diagnosis after another.
Overtime, Makaylah was treated for immunodeficiency, epilepsy, migraines, a GI motility disorder, obstructive airway disease, osteoporosis, a cyst in her brain, and muscle weakness – just to name a few. She was ultimately diagnosed with a mitochondrial disease - a diagnosis that finally pulled all of her medical complications together.
Despite the internal battle that she faces, Makaylah is a typical 12 year old who loves to swim and ride her bike. She is still on a path of balancing all of her health issues and fighting through the struggles, but she is thriving! From the Child Life program that keeps her spirits high when she is in the hospital, to the Critical Care transport team that intervened early on, donations from Children's Miracle Network to Arnold Palmer Hospital have had a direct impact on the quality of care Makaylah has received and on how well she is doing today.
Maleah was three years old when her parents noticed her swollen glands and grew concerned. After visiting a nighttime clinic and yet another hospital emergency room, Maleah’s primary doctor sent her to Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children for blood work. Her glands were getting bigger and her white blood count was rapidly increasing, and Maleah was ultimately diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. After having surgery to insert a broviac catheter in her chest, she began chemotherapy treatments.
The day Maleah’s hair fell out she looked at herself in the mirror and exclaimed, “Mommy, I have a cute head!” At that moment, Maleah’s mom said she realized they would make it through their journey. The caring staff made every effort to make both Maleah and her family comfortable. Today they are considered extended family and will be loved by Maleah for the rest of her life.
During her 37th week of pregnancy, Brandi’s was diagnosed with gestational hypertension. For her safety and the health of her baby, doctors induced her and brought baby Matthew into the world at Winnie Palmer Hospital in March 2010. Two day later, Matthew was diagnosed with a serious case of jaundice which required daily trips to Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children for blood tests and weeks of photo therapy. Then at just five weeks old, Matthew began having seizures and was diagnosed with Epilepsy.
In the five years since his original diagnosis, he now also battles a hearing impairment and has been diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Cortical Visual Impairment, and he is unable to talk. Due to nature of his complex conditions, Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children has become a second home to him and his family to receive specialized care on many occasions. Despite this, Matthew is still a happy boy who loves Ninja Turtles!
When a newborn needs to receive care in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies, parents are told to prepare to hear silence instead of cries in the delivery room. So when Myles’ mom heard her son, Myles, cry after delivery, she knew he was going to be a fighter. Myles weighed just 1 pound, 13 ounces at birth and would spend 54 days in the NICU at Winnie Palmer Hospital.
Throughout his stay in the NICU, Myles’ parents remember watching him grasp at a pacifier nearly as large as his face. “His hands were barely the size of quarters and his diapers were like folded dollar bills,” they recall. Every day, they watched as feeding tubes were replaced, listened as nurses discussed blood sugar levels and any increases in feeds, and remember celebrating football season and his first Halloween in the hospital.
In November of 2013, “Miracle Myles” was finally able to go home. Thanks to funds raised through Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, the NICU at Winnie Palmer had the incubators, diapers and monitoring systems that helped Myles grow strong during the first 3 months of his life. Today he enjoys making treats with mom and dad to take back to his favorite nurses at the hospital.
When Nolan was two weeks old, he was diagnosed with a life-threatening infection called encephalitis meningitis. Attacking his nervous system, the infection severely damaged more than half of his brain. Nolan was airlifted to Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children and although only two out of five infants survive this devastating infection, he was one that beat the odds!
Thanks to Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children had life-saving equipment, like a ventilator, to help him survive until he could start breathing on his own again. CMN Hospitals helps purchase machines like this so that hospitals have what they need when kids need it most.
Patrick & William
Patrick & William
At 27 weeks into her pregnancy, Karen gave birth to triplets Hunter, Patrick and William, each weighing less than 2 pounds. The smallest of them, Hunter, lived only 4 days, but passed his fighting spirit on to his brothers. Both Patrick and William underwent cardiac surgery before they were 12 days old, and while fighting numerous infections and overcoming several setbacks, spent nearly the next four months in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies in special incubators called Giraffe Beds, which were purchased with funds from Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.
Once home, William thrived but Patrick struggled to eat and gain weight. He was diagnosed with Failure to Thrive at six months old and also began having episodes of acute spasmodic croup that required frequent hospitalizations. At 18 months old, Patrick was diagnosed with Periventricular Leukomalacia and Cerebral Palsy. At three years old, due to severe reflux and gastroparesis, Patrick had a Nissen Fundoplication and received a G tube, as his body was unable to bring in enough calories to sustain him. Despite the frequent hospitalizations, procedures and weekly therapy treatments that he receives, nothing stops him and his brother from being bright, inquisitive eight year olds.
No child wants to spend time their summer break at a hospital. But for Reef, who battles Idiopathic Episodic Colonic Dismotality, a condition that causes bowel obstruction and left him in severe pain, Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children became his home in the summer of 2016.
That summer is when Reef began experiencing symptoms, and while doctors worked to find a diagnosis and eventually provide him with a diverting colostomy bag, he found comfort in the Child Life program. Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals’ funds provide support to the Child Life department which helps patients and their families understand and cope with new diagnosis’ and procedures through medical play, diversionary activities and special events.
Upon going in for their 20 week ultrasound, Sam’s parents learned that he would be born with spina bifida and hydrocephalus - a buildup of fluid inside the skull that leads to brain swelling. Sadly, the doctors believed that Sam would have brain damage and be wheelchair-bound with no quality of life and recommended that Sam’s parents terminate the pregnancy.
Despite these recommendations, Sam’s parents knew that he would be a fighter if they brought him into this world. Sam was born at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children and received two life-saving surgeries within the first 24 hours of his life; one to close his back which was open at birth, and one to place a shunt in his brain to remove the excess fluid.
Sam, whose smile lights up every room that he enters, is now 15 years old and is a full time “wheeler” as his family calls it. Although he has undergone a total of nearly 30 surgeries, he loves the special attention he gets from his medical team. He even prepares his post-surgery wish list that his team uses to make his time there better after each surgery-including chocolate milkshakes. He is extremely bright, active and can often be found popping wheelies or swimming in the pool alongside his service dog, Ledger.