Hannah Grace was our first born- the world’s easiest baby.Then, toddlerhood came, and we watched unbelieving as she became a fit-throwing ball of obstinance.
Fast forward a few years…Hannah Grace continued to be strong-willed and sassy, but we managed. She was smart, curious, and fun. She loved to dress up as a princess, read books, and watch Disney movies. She would sing her little heart out to Ariel’s “Part of Your World” knowing every word by heart. Her little brother, Caleb, joined our family in October 2007. Hannah acted like he wasn’t there at first; eventually she found ways to bother him (that’s what big sisters are for, right?), and at times she would actually entertain him with peek-a-boo or hide and seek.
In September of 2009, my sweet husband James took Hannah Grace to the pediatrician with a low-grade fever that had persisted for several days. We were shocked when our pediatrician explained that he believed Hannah had either a blood disease of some sort or leukemia; we would need to go home and pack our bags for Arkansas Children’s Hospital (ACH).
After arriving at ACH and waiting on lab results, a doctor finally told us later that night that it looked like Hannah did indeed have leukemia. The next day, we received more information about the type- ALL (acute lymphoblastic leukemia); this is the most treatable form of leukemia. She had stopped talking shortly after we arrived at the hospital, and we noticed that she didn’t seem to be moving her right side. There were perfectly reasonable explanations for these behaviors including the trauma of being in the hospital and various lines and IVs that had been placed in her little body. We were at ACH for a week, and we brought Hannah home for a weekend.
We returned to ACH on Monday for a routine chemotherapy session. Hannah had not been able to sit up at home, her speech had not returned, and she seemed unable to control her body. She was admitted to the hospital that day, and she never returned home again. Doctors discovered that somewhere along the line, she had suffered a stroke. This explained the loss of speech and the lack of movement. Initially, doctors had high hopes for recovery with various therapies; however, she suffered many setbacks including becoming septic and almost dying (which further expanded the stroke damage)…developing hydrocephalus and almost dying…and then having another stroke that hit the brain stem. After the most horrible 2 and 1/2 month roller coaster you can imagine, we made the gut wrenching decision to remove the life support from her tired body on December 6, 2009. She took her last breath in the wee hours of the morning on December 8 as I laid beside her with my arms wrapped around her.