Stories

2014 Miracle KidS

Each year, Children's Miracle Network Hospitals selects amazing children to represent the patients who are treated at the Children's Hospital at Erlanger and they are known as the Miracle Kids. The courage that these children possess is inspiring and the personal strides that they have made are worthy of recognition.
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Joel Westbrook
Age: 7-years-old
Hometown: Rossville, GA

On June 6, 2006, Wendy and Craig Westbrook learned that their son would be born with Spina Bifida. Joel arrived on October 11th and has endured ten surgeries in the last seven years. His first surgery took place just two days after his birth, and he spent twelve days in the NICU at Children’s Hospital. While Wendy mentions the “roller coaster of ups and downs”, she is also grateful for the little things like Joel’s renewed ability to wiggle his toes. The hospital visits and surgeries have not been easy, but Wendy recalls that “having staff and nurses who remember your name and specific things about Joel was very comforting.”  Joel’s larger than life personality always lights up the room.

 

 

 


 

PJ-Fox Tolbert
Age: 3-years-old
Hometown: Chattanooga, TN

PJ-Fox did not have an easy start. Born prematurely and weighing fewer than three pounds, PJ-Fox was diagnosed with sickle cell anemia before his first birthday. His diet is also restricted due to severe food allergies and eosinophilic esophagitis. Although PJ-Fox has spent significant time in the hospital, and in various types of therapy, his mother Binta says he “has an infectious smile and laugh that is contagious.” He remains active through swimming, therapeutic horseback riding, and playing with his Legos.

 

 

 

 

 


 

Alainey Charles

Age: 4-years-old
Hometown: Chattanooga, TN 

The Island of Dominica and Chattanooga, Tennessee may not have an obvious connection, but for Alainey Charles, the two are certainly linked. In January 2013, Alainey was diagnosed with Wilm’s Tumor Metastases to the Lungs in her home country of Dominica. With a tumor in her kidney and nodules in her lungs, Alainey’s family pursued sending her to the U.S. for treatment. Through research, paperwork, and an Emergency Medical Visa, Alainey arrived at Children’s Hospital at Erlanger on February 9, 2013. Although she is only four, Alainey has endured chemotherapy, radiation, and the removal of one of her kidneys. Her journey has not been easy, but as of November 2013, Alainey is cancer free and is heading to Disney World for the holidays. 

 

 

 

 

 


Zach Barton
Age: 14-years-old
Hometown: Chattanooga, TN

Zach is only fourteen years old, but his struggles with both Intestinal Pseudo Obstruction and Severe Anemia have certainly contributed to his maturity. Since the age of eight, Zach has been in and out of the hospital and has spent time on the 300/400 level of Children’s Hospital at Erlanger, in the ER, and at various clinics. While Zach has had to grow up more quickly than many other children, he still enjoys video games and spending time with his three dogs. 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Brayden Cordell
Age: 3-years-old
Hometown: Chattanooga, TN

At just three years old, Brayden has already endured a tracheotomy and spent substantial time in the hospital. Brayden was born with a chromosome abnormality, but it hasn’t stopped him or his family from enjoying life and celebrating his accomplishments. This year, Brayden learned to sit up by himself. He also loves animals, chocolate ice cream, and spending time in his bouncer.

 

 

 


 

Connor Pullen
Age: 16-months-old
Hometown: Trenton, GA

While Connor Pullen’s birth seemed straightforward and without complication, his first day and subsequent months were anything but. Connor became cyanotic shortly after birth and spent the next nineteen days in the NICU battling pulmonary hypertension, pneumonia, and abnormal blood shunting in the heart. Connor was able to go home after nearly three weeks in the NICU but was readmitted to Children’s Hospital the first time for the flu and a second time for difficulty breathing. Thankfully, Connor’s now a busy one year old and playmate for his older brother Luca. Connor’s 45 days in the hospital were difficult for the Pullen family, but his mother Claudia says “that there is no doubt in our minds though of the amazing care that Connor received at the Children’s Hospital.”

 

 

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Violet Thornburg
Age: 19-months-old
Hometown: Ooltewah, TN

In December 2012, Violet Thornburg’s connection to Children’s Hospital at Erlanger began with a fever. Within days of experiencing a low grade fever, Violet was in the ER with a full body rash, bloodshot eyes, and vomiting. At just four months old, Violet was diagnosed with Kawasaki’s disease and was the youngest case Erlanger had seen. Violet was given IV treatment and had to stay in the hospital over the holidays. Her parents, Rick and Elizabeth, split their time between the hospital and their son Nick at home. Thankfully, Violet’s illness was detected sooner than the typical 10-20 day symptom window, and she has no lasting effects from her illness. Although it was a difficult and frightening time to be in the hospital, Elizabeth remembers that “the doctors, nurses, and all staff were so kind, calm, and thorough.” Violet returned to the hospital this December, but this time, she was there for a much happier occasion. On December 3rd, Violet and the rest of the 2014 Miracle Kids were celebrated at the Tree Lighting and Parade of Presents. 

 

 


NerySara Carr
Nery Gonzales Coronel
Age: 3-years-old
Hometown: Chattanooga, TN

Nery Gonzales Coronel is three years old and in her short life has had multiple surgeries related to Apert Syndrome. She has also had physical, occupational, speech and feeding therapies that have helped her improve greatly! Now Nery is walking and talking more with help from her speaking valve. She attends Signal Centers and is eating much more by mouth. She enjoys going to the store and the park.                                           

 

 

  

 


Taylor Mitchell
Age: 2-years-old
Hometown: Chattanooga, TN

When LaToya Mitchell got violently ill less than 6 months into her pregnancy, her husband, Jarret took her to the emergency room where he was told he would have to choose between the life of his wife or their baby. LaToya was transferred to Erlanger where she learned that she had a rare case of preeclampsia. Fortunately, Dr. Adair was there to give LaToya steroid that would give both her and the baby a chance to live. This was followed by an emergency caesarian section and Taylor arrived weighing 1 pound 1 ounce 435 grams. Taylor spent 108 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and now is a thriving, adorable 2 year old girl.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Bella Reid
Age:19-months-old
Hometown: Tunnel Hill, GA

At less than a year old, Bella baffled multiple physicians with her illness. She had been admitted straight into the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit but for weeks no diagnosis was found until scans revealed a grapefruit size tumor in her abdomen. A biopsy determined it was cancer and Bella received 4 rounds of chemotherapy to shrink it to a smaller size better for surgical removal. It worked; the tumor was the size of a quarter when Bella went in for surgery. Dr. Pete Kelly was able to remove 90% of the tumor safely and two days later the pathology report showed that the entire tumor, including the tiny portion still remaining was dead. Bella will be monitored over the years but as her dad, Jason said, “Our little tiger fought cancer and won.”

 

 

 

 

  


Mia Geer

Age:16-months-old
Hometown: East Ridge, TN

Mia was born at 25 weeks gestation, weighing only 1 pound 10 ounces, on November 7, 2012. Mia spent 173 days in the hospital; many of her issues were related to breathing. She was on a ventilator until March 1st; stepping down until she came off oxygen completely on August 8, 2013. At just seven days old, Mia had her first of a series of surgeries due to the air outside her intestinal wall. She had an inch of her intestine and her appendix removed. Mia’s stay also included 14 blood transfusions and monitoring of her heart. Today, Mia continues to progress and her mom, Misty says, “The staff in labor and delivery, mother-baby, NICU, all Mia’s physicians and housekeeping were incredible! God definitely blessed us with our little miracle Mia!” 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Shealeigh Brewer

Age:12-years-old
Hometown: Riceville, TN

After Shealeigh began experiencing chest pain that wouldn’t subside, a series of x-rays, scans, an MRI and two biopsies were done to determine that Shealeigh had Ewing’s Sarcoma both in her right top rib and in her right femur. Shealeigh had two surgeries to remove the tumors from her body. She reports that with the absence of her rib, she can now contort in interesting ways. Shealeigh should finish her chemotherapy early in 2014 and hopes to get back to school in the spring. She is also looking forward to getting back to dance, gymnastics and cheerleading. Shealeigh is a graceful and uniquely poised young lady who is a joy to be around.

 


  

Destiny Kilgore

Age:17-years-old
Hometown: Dunlap, TN

Donna Kilgore has worked for Erlanger in labor and delivery for 12 years and until October 17, 2011 she had no idea that Children’s Hospital at Erlanger treated children with cancer. That was the day her fourteen year old daughter, Destiny was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. About a year into Destiny’s treatment, she started having major back pain. Destiny had a 6 hour MRI to determine the cause; which was avascular necrosis which causes hip deterioration resulting from the steroids used during her chemotherapy. On December 13, 2012, Destiny had bilateral hip surgery for this condition. Afterward she spent 3 months in a wheelchair followed by 3 months with a walker but is now walking well on her own.  The standard 2 years and 2 months of treatment was set to be completed January 25, 2014. It has been a long and sometimes scary journey but Destiny has a beautiful quiet spirit that has sustained her.

 


  

Josiah and Arianna Lopez

Age:2-years-old and 23-months-old
Hometown: Harrison, TN

Carlese Lopez was experiencing a healthy pregnancy but started having severe pain one night when she was only 6 months along. When she and her husband, Alejandro, arrived at the hospital near their home in Pikeville, TN, she was completely dilated. They gave Carlese medication to slow down her labor and she was brought by LifeForce to Erlanger, where Josiah was delivered. He spent 98 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, had pneumonia but over all did very well and went home with oxygen on November 1, 2011. On December 12, Carlese found out that she was expecting again. Given her history, she was closely monitored by high risk obstetricians in Chattanooga, where the family now lived. At about 5 and a half months, Carlese was starting to dilate again. She spent a week in the hospital and Arianna was delivered by caesarian section on April 15, 2012. Arianna struggled more than her brother in the NICU. She experienced seizures and at times they did not believe she would make it. She was given medication to paralyze her and let her little body recover. After 146 days, Arianna was able to go home with oxygen as well. Josiah has now reached all his developmental milestones and Arianna is progressing as she is continuing to be seen by her physicians.

 

 


 

Haylee Miller

Age:4-years-old
Hometown: Chattanooga, TN

Haylee Miller and her twin brother, Landon, were born Oct 20, 2009 at just 32 weeks gestation. Landon spent 2 weeks in the NICU but 3lb 2 oz, Haylee, spent 4 weeks there with feeding tubes and IVs . In the NICU she had difficulty maintaining her body temperature and they had a very hard time getting her to eat. At 6 months old, her parents, Jessica and Keith realized she was not growing and having reflux with every meal. They went to Dr. David Devoid, pediatric gastroenterologist, who gave Haylee a G-tube so that she could get proper nutrition. After this Haylee went for genetic testing and it was discovered that she is missing a portion of one of her chromosomes. The Millers were told that there were only 15 other known cases of this chromosome deletion in the country. Haylee also had to have two eye surgeries for strabismus and two surgeries to put tubes in her ears as well as the placement of a J-tube internally to help her retain more of her food. Haylee started walking at 2 and a half years old, she is still nonverbal but expresses definite opinions and choices. She weighs 24 pounds and is in gymnastics and goes to Siskin Children’s Institute. Her mom, Jessica, says they are fortunate to have a very supportive family surrounding them to help take care of Haylee and her brother Landon. Landon says that when Haylee grows up she is going to be a princess.

 


  

Christy Le

Age:19-years-old
Hometown: Dayton, TN

Christy noticed a lump in her thigh during the summer of 2011 but it went away so she didn’t think much of it until it came back bigger in October. After a series of scans, Christy was sent to Dr. Avery Mixon at Children’s Hospital, who confirmed on October 28, 2011 that Christy had T-cell Lymphoma. Since that time Christy has maintained a high level of school activity, including being a section leader in the band. She has also earned honor roll grades and competed in a pageant. Christy’s treatment was scheduled for completion in February 2013, as she said, “just in time for college”. Christy is headed to Tennessee Tech in the fall. Christy is a talented young lady who is a joy to all those she meets.

 

 

 

 

 


  

Ian Hughes

Age:2-years-old
Hometown: Ooltewah, TN

Andy and Kim Hughes found out in Kim’s first trimester of pregnancy that their son might be facing some big challenges ahead. A necessary amniocentesis confirmed that Ian had Trisomy 21, or Down’s syndrome. Later they learned he would also be born with heart and intestinal problems. Ian was born 6 weeks early and had an intestinal surgery the day after he was born. After a two and a half week NICU stay, Ian went home until 2 weeks later a twisting of part of his bowel sent the Hughes rushing back to the hospital. Ian’s family credits Drs. Koller, Smith, Koontz and all the ED staff with saving Ian’s life that day. Eighty percent of his small intestines had to be removed, resulting in Short Bowel Syndrome. Ian spent months in the PICU recovering but with ups and downs including an abscess in his intestines, and a noncancerous tumor in his adrenal gland that had to be removed. Ian had a Central Line for Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN) which was removed in December 2013. He currently still has a Gastrostomy Tube for his formula but Kim and Andy are hopeful to get him eating and have that removed soon. Ian had 3 heart defects, 2 of which resolved on their own. He underwent open heart surgery in December 2012 at Vanderbilt, at that time he weighed only 10lbs at almost a year old. Ian did well but continued to go in and out of the hospital with serious viruses and infections. He has had 5 central lines and during one trip to the hospital the line broke and traveled to his heart, which could have been fatal. Kim and Andy say that Ian continues to amaze them with his strength and fortitude!

 


  

Charlie Buffat
Age:22-months-old
Hometown: Chattanooga, TN

When Meghan Buffat learned that she was going to deliver her baby, Charlie at just 26 weeks gestation, she started to cry because she knew that his life was about to become very uncertain. Meghan is an ICU nurse with a friend who is a NICU nurse. She said, “I couldn't help but think about all of the stories my friend had told me about NICU babies. It makes a difficult situation even worse when you know enough to be scared but don't know enough to feel confident in the decisions that you have to make regarding the life of your baby. It also takes a huge amount of trust to let a stranger take care of someone who is precious to you.” The delivery went smoothly and Meghan was granted the rare opportunity of getting to hold 1 lb 15 oz Charlie before he was whisked off to the NICU. She would not get that chance again for a full week. The next 70 days were full of ups and downs but Charlie did not battle most things for which NICU babies are at risk. The Buffats were able to do kangaroo care, skin to skin contact, which has been shown to greatly improve outcomes. Meghan says, “I feel that I gave Charlie the best chance of living by taking him to T.C. Thompson Children’s Hospital at Erlanger's NICU. I am so grateful to all of the nurses, physicians, and other staff who participated in Charlie's care and took care of us.”