The Children's Miracle Network Champions program honors remarkable children from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Ireland who have triumphed despite severe medical challenges. For their courage and perseverance, the Champions have been selected as international ambassadors for the 17 million kids treated each year at Children's Miracle Network Hospitals.
Anyone who meets Anna Olivia Marcy can tell she is one very special little girl. With a smile that will steal your heart, she caught the attention of everyone who walked into her hospital room. "I think she just captured their hearts," says Anna's mom Beverly Marcy. "Her personality, smile and just the way she responded to things… She always wanted to say thank you to whoever was there. Whether it was the nurse, the person bringing her food or the cleaning staff, she wanted to let everyone know how grateful she was. How common is that? Having such a spirit of gratitude and strength for someone so young?"
A difficult road
Anna is the 2015 Children's Miracle Network Hospitals North Dakota Champion and the honor is well deserved. Last summer Anna's parents noticed she was gaining a little weight around her midsection over a short period of time.
"We went through a few steps and after an ultrasound discovered it was a buildup of fluid coming from her shunt," says Anna's dad Greg.
Before Anna had her first birthday or even met the people who are now her parents, she had surgery to place a shunt in her birth country of Azerbaijan. Anna was born with hydrocephalus, a condition where fluid accumulates around the brain. The common treatment is to reroute this fluid to another area of the body, most commonly the abdomen, where it can be absorbed safely back into the bloodstream.
Anna had the fluid drained and was sent home with appointments set for the following week. However, over the weekend Anna’s abdomen again began filling with fluid. She was admitted into the pediatric intensive care unit where the fluid was drained and a cause was found.
"Usually when patients have shunt infections, they occur soon after the device is placed," says Tong Yang, MD, pediatric neurosurgeon at Sanford Children's Fargo. "But in Anna's case, it was a slow growing bacterium that didn't present until almost four years later."
A long wait
Anna's shunt would have to come out and an external one placed to relieve her body from the building fluid.
"It was a challenge for us and for her," says Greg. "An almost 6-year-old doesn't just sit in bed very well. She wanted to be up and moving, but with the external shunt she really couldn't. If we turned it off for more than 20 minutes she would get a headache."
Anna was in the hospital for more than 30 days as the external shunt drained the fluid. Once it was under control, Dr. Yang and the team at Sanford made a plan to hopefully fix the issue for good.
"Putting a shunt back into Anna's abdomen was no longer a viable option for her," says Dr. Yang. "The infection had made it a hostile environment. So we elected to place it through a vein into her heart, which is a second most common place to put the distal shunt catheter."
A happy result
Anna is now doing well and excited to take on the role of Children's Miracle Network Hospitals North Dakota Champion.
"When we were approached about it, we knew we wanted to help," says Beverly. "We received such amazing care from the team at Sanford Children's and the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals that we really wanted to give back."
"Watching our child go through this was so difficult," recalls Greg. "But hopefully by sharing our story and drawing attention to the work done through Children's Miracle Network Hospitals, we can help make it a little easier for another family going through a similar situation."
It started with a bump on her right arm in the summer of 2013. Hannah was experiencing pain with the unexplained bump that just wouldn’t go away, and her parents knew it was time to seek medical help. In July of 2013, she was diagnosed a form of bone cancer that is common in children and is quite aggressive, so early treatment is important.
Matthew Heuer looked across the field near their Leonard, N.D., home and saw the overturned ATV. Within minutes, he found his son, 9-year-old Jared, face down in the ditch. Matthew called 911, triggering help from the local ambulance and first responders. Sanford LifeFlight landed in the field and transported Jared to Sanford Emergency Center in Fargo.
At 23 weeks pregnant, Sarah was diagnosed with a rare disorder affecting blood flow to each identical twin. With advanced technology, Sarah was able to undergo a lifesaving laser procedure. The downside: increased risk for premature delivery. At 27 weeks, Jack and Joe arrived each weighing between 2 and 3 pounds.
An accidental gunshot caused a serious wound to 3-year-old Laine's left hip, prompting emergency surgery and specialized care at Sanford Children's Hospital. Laine spent a week in the hospital, then continued intensive wound treatment at home. Today, Laine runs, jumps and plays like any child would. A small boy … a bright future … the miracle of a brand new day.
2010: Alyssa Pratt
A doctor's appointment on June 10, 2009, in her hometown of Minot, N.D., led to the devastating news: blood tests showed leukemia. The family needed to travel to Sanford in Fargo immediately.
2009: Matthew Garberg
Born 16 weeks early in Bemidji, Minn., Matt Garberg weighed 1 pound, 5 ounces. Babies so small and fragile face obstacles that can last a lifetime, but the first challenge? Survival. A call to Sanford in Fargo set in motion a lifesaving journey.
2008: Cora Knudsvig
December 31, 2005 is a day the Keith and Tanya Knudsvig family will never forget. After complaining about a bad headache and vomiting, 5-year-old daughter Cora Knudsvig became unresponsive and was rushed to Sanford Children's Hospital where doctors diagnosed her with a brain tumor (Papillary Neuroglioma).
2007: Monica Hatch
Monica Hatch had an unstoppable zest for life, despite the challenges and hardships of cancer. In 2003, at the age of 11, Monica was diagnosed with spindle cell sarcoma, a rare type of cancer that starts in the connective tissue.
2006: Tanya Holbrook
On January 2, 2005, Tanya Holbrook complained to her mother about a headache. Knowing something was very wrong, Tanya was rushed to Sanford Children's Hospital. A cluster of blood vessels had exploded in her brain. Tanya was rushed into emergency surgery where doctors placed a stent in her head to relieve the pressure from the excess blood.
2005: Leah Vigum
Leah Vigum is a happy five-year-old who attends pre-school and loves to sing and dance. It is difficult to look at her bright smile today and believe that at the tender age of four months the unthinkable could have happened.
2004: Brandon Lee
In the fall of 2002, Brandon Lee began experiencing painful headaches, a condition unusual for an athletic nine-year-old boy. On New Year's Eve, when Brandon's headache became so severe that he could no longer tolerate the pain, his parents, Kimi and Jason, knew something was terribly wrong. They rushed him to Sanford Emergency Center, where doctors discovered a tumor behind Brandon's eye.
2003: Simon Nelson
The incident that earned Simon Nelson his place as CMN Champion actually took place two years ago. On January 22, 2001, young Simon, clad only in his pajamas, wandered out of his family's home near Hitterdal, Minn., into a 10-degree night. At 4:30am, Simon's mother, Janna, awoke to find the front door open. Sensing something was wrong, she went to check on Simon and his brother, DeForrest, only to find Simon's bed empty.
2002: Sara Flint
Sara Flint's surgeries began on Nov. 23, 1994, the day she was born at Sanford Health. Diagnosed with spina bifida, surgery was performed to close the opening on her spine. Ten days later, Sara underwent a second surgery to place a shunt into her head to drain off excess fluid.
2001: Tyler Klain
Fourteen-year-old Tyler Klain is the son of Durnell and Darcy Klain. He was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia in March of 2000 and underwent many months of intensive chemotherapy treatment at Sanford in Fargo. He is now in remission and doing well. Tyler is a patient of Dr. Nathan Kobrinsky, a pediatric oncologist/hematologist at Sanford Children's Hospital.