From Garth Brooks concerts to Gatlinburg trips, 10-year-old Hattie leads an exceptional life.
Diagnosed in utero with spina bifida, Hattie has experienced more than 30 surgeries since she was born. The most recent was in November 2021 when Hattie had spinal fusion surgery at Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital.
“Hopefully the spinal fusion was one of her last major things. We have no other surgeries or anything like that coming up” says Amy, Hattie’s mom. “She does it all without complaining.”
Finding Family in the Hospital
When Hattie was 3, she was in Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital for three months when she got a shunt and tracheostomy, which means she uses a ventilator at night when she sleeps. During that stay, the family got very close to the doctors and nurses
“They are like family,” Amy says. “There are no words to explain how grateful we are for everything they’ve done for Hattie and how much they care about their patients.”
The care Hattie has received from Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Health has spanned the creation of our Children’s Hospital, which opened in 2019. “We have had the best experiences at the Lake,” Amy says. Amy and husband Jeremiah were part of the first Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital Family Advisory Council and served three years.
Hattie’s twin sister, Harper, and their older brother, Harrison, 12, have received support from Child Life Specialists who help them understand what’s going on with their sister each time Hattie needs to be admitted to the hospital.
Capturing Attention in a Low-Tech Way
Because of her tracheostomy and ventilator use, Hattie’s hospital stays are in our Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. When her mom tells her they need to go to the hospital, Hattie often says, “YES! I get to see all my nurse friends.” Hattie always packs finger slingshots as a quick way to get those friends’ attention.
During hospital stays, Amy keeps Hattie on track with schoolwork. Hattie is a fifth grader and is cognitively on level. Those homework sessions are when the slingshots get the most use. “She shoots slingshots at people when they walk past her door to try to get them to come in to interrupt us, which they gladly do,” Amy says.
Treated No Differently
Hattie uses a wheelchair to get around, but as one of three siblings, she is treated equally within the family dynamic.
“Our biggest thing as a family is we just try not to treat her any different than the other two,” Amy says. “That’s just how we’ve always been. Whatever we do, she goes. We make it work for all our kids.”
That has included trips to the mountains and the beach as well as the Garth Brooks concert in Tiger Stadium last month. Amy says Hattie is obsessed with the singer and keeps a Garth poster up in her room.
“Hattie is one of the sweetest, most easygoing kids ever,” Amy says. “She rolls with it. For as much as she’s been through, she’s always happy.” Hattie enjoys playing outside and loves animals. The family keeps chickens, and Hattie is angling to get a dog