Meet Lauren, Washington ‘Miracle Kid’

Lauren on the field at a recent Washington Nationals game as part of the Champions Tour.

Nine-year-old Lauren visited Washington, DC last week. She did any number of things kids her age do when they visit our nation’s capital. She hung out with her friends outside the White House. She took in a Washington Nationals game. And she was joined by dozens of her newest friends at a superhero birthday party.

That last one was a bit out of place, if only because it is part of the Children’s Miracle Network Champions Tour, which takes pediatric patients from every state, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico to embark on a two-part ambassador tour to Washington, D.C. and Orlando, Florida., raising awareness of the charitable needs of children’s hospitals.

Like her other friends, Lauren—or Lo, as she is affectionately referred to by her Mom, Abigail—came through the Children’s Miracle Network after battling illness.

Abigail, VP of Marketing and Strategy with Global Credit Union, who describes herself as someone who doesn’t often stress or panic about health issues, took the news of Lauren’s condition as a complete shock while out of town on a ski trip.

“Nothing can prepare you for getting the news that your child is sick. Type 1 Diabetes wasn’t even on our radar,” she said.

“We had multiple check-ins and even FaceTimed over the weekend. She looked tired but normal for someone not feeling well. It had been a really bad flu season that year. I told her to drink lots of juice—the absolute wrong thing for someone who couldn’t produce the insulin needed to process sugar. But we had no idea.”

On the way home, they drove in silence, waiting to hear what was going on with their little girl. About an hour outside of Spokane, they received word: Type 1 diabetes.

“I remember saying out loud, What does that even mean? She doesn’t even like sugar,” Abigail said.

“Her tiny little body was shutting down.”

Sacred Heart Hospital, where Lauren was treated.

If the drive to the hospital was both silent and stressful, the arrival relieved much of that tension—for a moment.

“When we stepped off the elevator I remember feeling an immense sense of peace. I just knew everything was going to be okay and thought: thank God this is our hospital.”

Shortly after arriving at Lauren’s room, her parents were struck with the gravity of the situation.

The energetic seven-year-old who’d danced and sung around the kitchen just two days before was now lying unconscious before her parents and hospital Chaplain. Doctors placed her odds of survival at 10 percent. Even if she pulled through, they braced her parents for possible cerebral edema and brain damage.

“She was 90 degrees when she was admitted,” Abigail said. “Her pH was below 6.8, the lowest registrable number because life is not sustainable under seven. Her tiny little body was shutting down.”

According to the doctors, a normal pH level is 7.4. By the next morning Lauren was up to a pH of 7.2. By day three, what Abigail viewed as progress, however fragile or fleeting, was met with pity and frustration by doctors.

“The doctor explained that human life depends on a tight control of pH between 7.35 and 7.45. Normally with a T1D diagnosis the family is discharged in three to four days. But this was not normal. The doctor explained that while they see kids with a pH of 7, even some with 6.9, they don’t see kids under 6.8.”

“I wish I hadn’t asked why. The answer was not what I wanted to hear. They die before they arrive. The fact that Lauren was there at all was a miracle.”

The conversation revealed an unfortunate fact: Lauren was the sickest diabetic patient the hospital had ever seen.

“Our little Lo was in the fight of her life.”

Lauren’s situation somehow only worsened at the close of day seven. She developed Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). Then her stomach stopped. Then her kidneys. Her parents were talking about dialysis by week two, but Abigail remained hopeful.

Every morning, her mother would arrive before the day shift change to hear the nurse’s report and daily rounds, staying until after midnight. She would sit and hold her hand, talk to her, encourage her and tell her how proud they all were.

“Our little Lo was in the fight of her life,” Abigail said. “It’s a funny thing, how well you get to know someone when they say nothing at all. Sitting there, watching her, I could hear her louder than ever. She was a fighter.”

By the third week her kidneys started working again. Then her stomach. Then she moved back to the conventional ventilator. Then she woke up.

“I was sitting at the end of her bed when I saw her leg move slightly and the next thing I knew she grabbed the breathing tube and pulled it out. She mouthed ‘I’m thirsty.’ It was the sweetest sound I didn’t hear. And it didn’t matter.”

Not only was she breathing on her own, she could move. She could think. No brain damage.

“A miracle,” Abigail said.

The last week we were in the hospital was the hardest. Lauren relied on four different specialists to help her build her strength, speak, eat and walk. A respiratory therapist came every two hours to give her breathing treatments to break up the fluid in her lungs from the ARDS.

She was weaning off the powerful narcotics that had kept her asleep and was “pretty beat up” from what her body had been through. And then, there was her new life as a diabetic. She now needed to inject insulin to live.

Children’s Miracle Network in Action

“The final week in the hospital was really when we saw the full force of the Children’s Miracle Network,” Abigail said.

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Throughout the treatment process, there was art therapy and pet therapy, both welcome distractions from the work of getting better. Lauren injured her vocal chords when she pulled her breathing tube out, so it was painful to speak—a distant memory after Abigail heard her laugh for the first time since she was admitted. Then they left the hospital on that fifth Sunday.

“There is no diet or pill she can take to reverse it and nothing she did caused it. Luckily there will always be doctors, nurses and Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals to make sure she, and all the kids who will come after her, will have life-saving medical care plus a little extra love.”

Since coming home, Lauren started her Champion Tour with an announcement as the Washington State Champion at the Spokane Chef’s Culinary Classic fundraiser for Children’s Miracle Network.

Her tour was chronicled when Lauren took over the Global Credit Union Instagram account, @global_cu, and through #‎ChampionsForKids #LoLoInDC #CMN #CUs4Kids hashtags. It was also a fitting next-chapter for a girl whose Mom has spent her career in the Credit Union Movement.

30 Years of Credit Unions for Kids

“When I started at Global in 1996 (the same year Credit Unions for Kids launched nationally), I had no way of knowing the impact Children’s Miracle Network would eventually have on my family,” Abigail said. “I served on the Credit Unions for Kids committee, participated in fundraisers, sold Miracle Balloons and visited Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital in my work life. But until you walk through those doors as a parent or loved one with a sick kiddo in their care, it is difficult to fully comprehend what Children’s Miracle Network does for our community,” she continued.

While Lauren doesn’t remember much of her admittance, her rebound and Champions Tour has given her confidence and understanding of all the needs our families and communities face with childhood illness.

“Best of all, nothing about T1D has slowed her down,” Abigail said. “She goes to her same school, plays with her friends, loves Musicaly and YouTube and does all the things any pre-teen would do—plus a whole lot more.”

How your credit union can get involved

At this year’s MAXX Convention in SeaTac, the Credit Unions for Kids Gala Auction will recognize 30 years of Credit Unions for Kids with a Walk of Stars. Credit Unions purchasing stars will not only be featured on the walk, but will see their contributions go directly to helping thousands of kids like Lauren.

Interested in participating? The Credit Unions for Kids Gala Auction at the MAXX Convention in October is taking requests now for stars the new Walk of Stars. Contact Carmen Vigil, NWCUA Community Manager, to find out more, at cvigil@nwcua.org or 206.340.4817.

Questions about this story? Contact Eric Horvath: 503.350.2222, ehorvath@nwcua.org.

Posted in NWCUA.