Our Kid HEROES
Inspirational and brave are understatements when it comes to describing our Kid HEROES. These children have shown courage and resilience when faced with serious health challenges.
Our Kid HEROES represent the incredible things that are accomplished when we all collectively work together to make an impact. Every Kid HERO has benefited from the care and services of Dartmouth Health Children's and CHaD.
Below are just a few of the HEROES that inspire us and we know will inspire you too!
Jack & Hunter
In 2010, Jack and Hunter were diagnosed with Morquio syndrome, or MPS 4A, an extremely rare genetic condition that affects a child's bones, organs, spine, and physical abilities. This diagnosis 13 years ago is where their journey with the Children's Hospital at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center (CHaD) began.
Jack and Hunter's parents, Alison and Matt, said that CHaD has been the "backbone" of their medical care, which includes home infusions and ENT treatment. They hope to not only raise awareness about Morquio syndrome, but also want to give gratitude to the caregivers and medical personnel at CHaD who have worked alongside them since their sons were diagnosed. Jack and Hunter are TWO of the 2023 Kid HEROES.
At the tender age of three, Arianna was diagnosed with epilepsy, a disorder that causes recurring, unprovoked seizures. Despite several diagnoses that have had an impact on her daily life, Arianna has managed to push through with a positive attitude. She has built a bond with her doctors at Dartmouth Health Children's, and they have been by her side every step of the way.
Arianna said that she wants to be a CHaD ambassador because she wants to contribute to the place that helped her through her journey. "I enjoy meeting fellow CHaD Kids," she said. "I want to help raise money for the hospital that helps me."
Arianna O. is a 2023 Kid HERO.
Lucy & Sally
The day she was born, Lucy was transported to Dartmouth Health Children's for apnea and seizures. Lucy's mom said that as soon as they arrived at CHaD, they knew they could exhale a sigh of relief because Lucy would be in "good hands." After two months and many visits to the intensive care nursery (ICN), Lucy was diagnosed with KCNT1, a rare genetic form of epilepsy.
Now, Lucy has a team of specialists on her side dedicated to her care, something that her family feels very grateful for. But it is not only a team of medical professionals who have been by her side, Lucy's sister Sally has also been her biggest cheerleader rooting for her along the way. Sally hates when Lucy has seizures, but thinks she's the best sister ever. She misses her every time she has an appointment and isn't home in the evening, but wanted to say "THANK YOU" to doctors and nurses for taking such good care of her sister. "We feel so lucky to have a world class hospital in the woods of New Hampshire," her mom said. "CHaD has support and resources to help the whole family navigate a very challenging diagnosis."
Lucy and her sister Sally are TWO of the 2023 CHaD HEROES.
Only 24 hours after he was born, Cooper's routine newborn cardiac screen was showing as abnormal. He was immediately rushed to Dartmouth Health Children’s and diagnosed with a congenital heart defect deemed incompatible with life. After having life-saving open heart surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital, Cooper has received his follow-up care at Dartmouth Health Children's, which included a sedated ECHO that detected a narrowed pulmonary vein requiring a balloon catheterization. At only a few days old, Cooper was a fighter.
Cooper's mom, Lindsey, is not only grateful for the care he has received, but she also hopes that one day Cooper himself will realize all the adversity he went through to get to where he is today. "We hope his story can be a source of hope and inspiration to others," she said. "We want Cooper to be proud of everything he has overcome to be the amazing, strong, smart, kind, and loving boy he is today."
Cooper is a 2023 Kid HERO.
Born at 28 weeks and weighing one pound and nine ounces, Remy came into the world a fighter. After a routine ultrasound only two weeks prior, doctors found a placental insufficiency that impacted her growth in utero and she spent four months in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) in Texas before her family moved to Lebanon, NH where she was introduced to Dartmouth Health Children's and given personalized care that her parents welcomed with open arms.
Within days of arriving in Lebanon, Remy's journey with CHaD began. Her care included a home visit from several doctors who delivered high-quality medical equipment to her home and sat down with her parents to answer any questions they had about her condition and treatment. Now, Remy is only visiting her doctors at CHaD every three months, as opposed to every few weeks. Remy's resilience, the dedication from her parents, and the medical professionals around her are a true testament as to what is accomplished at Dartmouth Health Children’s every day. Remy's mom, Cora, is also grateful for the team at CHaD. "I am proud to call Remy a CHaD Ambassador,” she said. "It is a way to champion her strength and to express my gratitude for the stellar care that brought her to where she is today."
Remy is a 2023 Kid HERO.
In 2017, Arianna's life changed in an instant. While out on a normal grocery trip with her family, a drunk driver hit the vehicle she was in head on when they were on their way home. Arianna was in her car seat in the backseat and was most impacted by the brunt of the impact. As she sat unresponsive in the vehicle, the emergency medical technicians on the scene immediately called the Dartmouth Hitchcock Advanced Response Team (DHART) for a medical flight to Lebanon where Arianna underwent emergency brain surgery. At just 21 months old, she experienced a depressed open-skull fracture and a pulmonary contusion.
After the surgery, Arianna was placed on full life support. Her mother, Sarah, was told to prepare herself for the fact that her daughter may never come home. After 10 grueling days in the care of medical professionals at CHaD, Arianna woke up.
While her initial and extremely difficult battle was won, her fight is still not over. Arianna had to relearn to walk, eat, and talk all over again. She is currently in physical, occupational, and speech therapy weekly because of these injuries.
Sarah, Arianna's mom, expresses gratitude to the team at CHaD for not only helping her daughter during a grueling moment in her life, but also for giving her hope through it all.
"CHaD not only saved my daughter's life," she said. "But they helped keep me together in moments where I wasn't sure how I would keep going."
Arianna S. is a 2023 Kid HERO.
At only 25+1 weeks, Ivy came into the world a fighter. Immediately after birth, her and her family met with health care professionals that would soon become family, and she spent 116 days in the Intensive Care Nursey (ICN). During her stay at the ICN, they celebrated holidays, diaper changes, and every milestone that comes along with a baby born prematurely.
Eventually, Ivy went home on O2 and a heart monitor, with reassurance that the clinic was only a phone call away. After going home, Ivy quickly began Early Intervention and excelled at occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech, and developmental therapy. She will be graduating just shy of her 3rd birthday, which will mark yet another milestone in her life.
Ivy’s mom, Katie, reiterated that the hardest moment in her life also brought her a beautiful outcome.
“The ICN is hard,” she said. “It tests you, and makes you question things. It also teaches you more than you know, and that there is light on the other end. It proves that you can’t get a rainbow without a little, or a lot, of rain.”
Ivy H. is a 2023 Kid HERO.
Calling Owen Zak, a miracle baby would be a severe understatement. At 24 weeks, Owen made his way into this world a fighter. At 1 pound and 10 oz, he was one of three triplets born 4 months too soon, and unfortunately, his battle was far from over. Sadly, the brothers that he came into this world with lost their fight only weeks after they were born, and Owen faced a tumultuous road to recovery.
In 2021, a week after his third birthday, he underwent surgery to have his trach removed, and his speech, motor, and cognitive skills all seemed to have caught up with his age. He began preschool and found immense joy in interacting with children his own age.
Owen and his family lived blissfully as they seemed to be exiting this chapter of Owen’s life, but sadly, he was about to hit another incredibly heavy obstacle. In May 2022, Owen was diagnosed with Stage 4 High Risk Neuroblastoma. He underwent six rounds of chemotherapy and a 12-hour procedure to remove the tumor, followed by 20 rounds of Proton Radiation and six rounds of immunotherapy. Finally, in January 2023, he was cancer free and received his final treatment to prevent relapse this June.
Despite his grueling medical journey, Owen is known for his beaming smile and laughter, traits that have won over the hearts of everybody at CHaD he comes into contact with. His family is grateful to CHaD and credits the hospital for saving Owen’s life.
“Owen represents all Kid HEROs,” said his mother Jessica. “He overcomes and smiles through it all, not just for himself, but for his brothers, and all babies who have had to, are currently, or who will, have to fight for their lives.”
Owen Z. is a 2023 Kid HERO.
Myles P. was introduced to CHaD when he was only four years old and experiencing a kidney issue. After receiving care from Pediatric Nephrology and the Pain Free Clinic, his family thought that would be the end of their CHaD journey. However, only four short years later when he was eight years old, Myles began to feel ill again.
His family met with ChaD’s Pediatric Gastroenterology team, where they diagnosed Myles with Ulcerative Colitis (UC), an autoimmune disease that causes bleeding of the large intestine. Despite this challenging diagnosis, the CHaD team was reassuring and treated Myles and his family with compassion.
“Dr. Al-Nimr patiently explained to us what was happening to Myles,” said his father, Chris Pelkey. “He made sure to speak directly to Myles, explaining that he is not alone, and that the CHaD Pediatric Gastroenterology unit has over 200 patients with UC.”
Myles wants to use that same reassurance that he received from Dr. Al-Nimr to reiterate to other CHaD patients that they, too, are not alone. He wants to help ensure that other kids know that when they come to CHaD they will feel cared for and special. Despite his difficult diagnosis and multiple inpatient stays, Myles’ still has a contagious smile and positive attitude.
Myles P. is a 2023 Kid HERO.
When April B. found out she was pregnant with her daughter Willow, her nerves overcame her. While she was elated at the thought of welcoming her baby girl into the world, her past experience with two miscarriages gave her reason to pause. However, Willow kept growing.
After an unfortunate chain of events, April found herself in early labor and gave birth to Willow at 29 weeks and 2 days. She was a little under three pounds, but April already knew that her daughter would be a fighter. The hospital where Willow was born did not have a neonatal intensive care unit, and doctors and nurses were on video chat with the Intensive Care Nursery (ICN) team at the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock (CHaD) who were guiding them on how to care for her.
After waiting for what felt like an eternity, DHART’s CHaD team arrived to bring Willow to the ICN.
“We vividly remember their green suits and the feeling of relief upon seeing them,” April recalled. “They were confident, competent, and ready to do what they needed to do to save our baby girl.”
Now, Willow is 20 months old, and her parents and big sister are grateful for the team at the ICN who not only helped treat Willow back to health, but also handled their situation with compassion through the life-changing journey.
Willow is a 2023 Kid HERO.
Small but might, Joey spent 4 long months at Dartmouth Health Children’s NICU after being born 13 weeks early. Joey was originally due in December 2022, but with pregnancy complications he was born in September 2022 weighing only 1lb 11.5 oz. During those four months at Dartmouth Health Children’s Joey was on countless ventilators, CPAP machines, feeding tubes and monitors.
On January 2, 2023 he was able to finally go home only to be readmitted a month later in need of emergency surgery. Joey continues to receive care at Dartmouth Health Children’s and enjoys tractors, fishing and spending time with his grandparents.
“The staff during Joey’s time at CHaD made us feel supported, they were a family, a “home away from home”. The staff wore their hearts on their sleeves and went out of their way - no request or question was too big or too small. They helped us get connected to resources when we needed them. It was one less stress on our shoulders so we could focus solely on Joey, and his emotional and physical needs. Dartmouth Health Children’s and CHaD was not only there to support Joey, but they were there for us as an entire family,” said Sammantha, Joey’s mom.
Joey is a 2023 Kid HERO.
Gabrielle’s 21-year journey at CHaD began shortly after she was born prematurely and had to be life-flighted by DHART’s Critical Care Team to the CHaD ICU from Wentworth-Douglass Hospital in Dover, NH. Only a few days old, Gabrielle was on life support battling congenital heart failure and brain bleeds. At two weeks old, Gabrielle had her first open heart surgery, and doctors told her parents it was very possible Gabrielle would not survive the surgery, let alone be able to walk or talk. Gabrielle was a true fighter; after months of care in the NICU, she was strong enough to go home and today she is thriving.
"I’ve proved everyone wrong; I am doing things that the doctors told my parents I would never be able to do. If it wasn’t for the doctors and nurses at CHaD, I wouldn’t be here today,” said Gabrielle.
Gabrielle is a 2023 Kid HERO.