Hope is Flying High
One determined girl defies the odds (with the help of her dad, and her team at Phoenix Children’s)
Teenagers can be as challenging to tame as wild horses. But Hope’s dad says he’s grateful for his eye-rolling, know-it-all 19-year-old. There was once a day when he was told his bright, rough-and-tumble daughter — an honor student and avid equestrian — might never be able to backtalk him again.
It happened on Thanksgiving day in 2014. Then 13-year-old Hope spiked a fever of “of unknown origin” that landed her in a nearby ER. The following day as her dad, Mike, tucked her into bed she suffered a stroke that left her paralyzed on her right side. She was routed to Phoenix Children’s Hospital, and doctors delivered crushing news no parent is ever prepared to hear: her stroke was severe. She had lost many cognitive abilities, and might never be able to communicate as she once had. She’d also have to learn how to do just about everything again.
But they hadn’t anticipated Hope’s galloping spirit.
During her 75-day stay at Phoenix Children’s, Hope defied the odds. Accustomed to riding the horses on the family’s property in Gilbert, she requested Animal-Assisted Therapy every day. She worked hard with the rehabilitation team at Phoenix Children’s; and today, her father, an airline pilot who stayed with her in the hospital all but three nights, reports she’s flying high. While she has some lingering affects from the stroke, none of it slows her down. She’s off to NAU in the fall, and according to her proud father, “can bust out a 19-second barrel pattern on her horse, fly upside down in her old man’s plane and crush the family phone plan talking on her cell.”
During their time at the Hospital, Mike says he took Hope outside to participate in Ignite Hope, the Hospital’s annual holiday celebration. Members of the community walk by candlelight to support children and families spending the holidays in the Hospital. Mike says it was the most meaningful Christmas he’s ever had, making a connection to the true spirit of the holidays. He remains grateful to and involved with Phoenix Children’s, where he says Hope received incredible care and still returns for therapy. “They never told us no.”
Hope plans to spend plenty of time at Phoenix Children’s in the future. Her goal is to become a pediatric nurse here. Judging by her relentless spirit of determination, the odds are in her favor.
7-year-old Leighton is like most kids. After school she juggles a full roster of sports – hockey and baseball are her favorites. (Her dad’s a former MLB pitcher and her mom, a coach and manager of a league of girls’ softball teams). But she’s not like most kids in that a diagnosis in May stopped all the juggling balls as she underwent surgery and chemotherapy at Phoenix Children’s.