Through the partnership with Aaron’s, the Dream teamed up with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta for a season-long “Armed with a Dream” initiative which honors patients currently undergoing treatment or rehabilitation at Children's. At each home game, Atlanta Dream players honor a current patient at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta by displaying the patient’s name on their arm. Below are our honorees for the 2011 season:
In the Summer of 2010 at age 17, Doc was diagnosed with bone cancer, at the Aflac Cancer Center at Children’s at Scottish Rite. Days later, he started aggressive chemotherapy treatment. Weeks later—just before Thanksgiving—the lifelong basketball fan and player underwent a below-the-knee amputation and began to adjust to using a prosthetic limb. Characterized by a consistently upbeat attitude, Doc was quickly deemed a “physical therapy rockstar” by physical therapists at Children’s. He used his time as an inpatient to encourage younger patients and help them remain positive about their treatment. When Doc began his second-to-last round of chemotherapy just one day after his 18th birthday, staff members came together to throw Doc a surprise party, in which he received a surprise visit from the Dream’s Izi Castro Marques.
When Thomas Mills was born two months early, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta staff walked across the street to Northside Hospital to care for him. He has been a Children’s patient ever since. Thomas has severe spastic diplegia cerebral palsy and grand mal epilepsy. Often Thomas has uncontrollable seizures that stop his breathing. Eight years ago, doctors predicted that Thomas would never be able to form words. Today he speaks of his favorite Star Wars characters and all things Army. He also enjoys basketball, fishing and building model airplanes with his dad.
At just 17 years old, Drew has twice battled and overcome Guillian Barre Syndrome, a neurological disorder that causes the immune system to attack peripheral nerves and often results in muscle weakness or loss of muscle function (paralysis). Drew’s can-do attitude has allowed him to relearn skills and recover quickly after both bouts with the disorder. Drew is no stranger to hard work as he is an honor student and a two-sport athlete at Northgate High School. Drew continues to work to regain the ability to walk and aspires to be back on his high school football field before graduation.
Six-year-old Kanya Neal loves to sing and dance. Today she does both without inhibition thanks to a new heart and the Sibley Heart Center at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. As a toddler, Kanya suffered from idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition in which the cavity of the heart is enlarged and stretched causing the heart to become weak and not pump normally. As part of her medical treatment, Kanya was put on ECMO, a life-saving heart and lung bypass machine that takes over patient’s heart and lung functions in order to allow those organs to heal during critical illness. Despite multiple surgeries, including an amputation due to poor circulation, Kanya has a jig in her step and a song in her heart.
When Savannah learned she would lose her right leg after an accident in her own driveway, she invited her friends and family to sign it as if it were a cast. She laughed as kind parting messages were scribbled on her skin in magic marker. The accident has hardly slowed her down. Savannah returned to school to finish her sophomore year at Peachtree Ridge High School where she previously played volleyball and was a member of the swim team. Today, she is determined to get back in the game as a stronger and faster competitor and also has aspirations to join the Navy.
NADIA & JEROME
Nadia (10) and Jerome (18) both have sickle cell anemia, a disease passed down through families in which red blood cells form an abnormal shape, resulting in painful episodes that can last from hours to days. Despite battling this condition and receiving ongoing treatment at Hughes-Spalding, Nadia and Jerome have achieved some amazing goals. Nadia is an honor roll student at Avondale Elementary School where she earned the Citizenship Award. She enjoys making people laugh and creating jewelry for friends in her free time. Despite having to miss many school days, Jerome graduated from Rockdale County High School in May. His graduation was no small feat as he enrolled in seven in-school classes and five online classes to be able to walk with his classmates. He hopes to pursue a career in culinary arts or early childhood development.
Mitchell lost his left femur to bone cancer in 2002 at the age of four. Though Mitchell has been in remission since then—for nine years--he returns to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta annually to visit the Survivor Clinic in the Aflac Cancer Center and to be fitted for a new prosthetic to match his growth. Mitchell uses his foot to drive his prosthetic, as designed by his rotation plasty procedure, to play both basketball and soccer. His latest venture is golf.
Bill, age 12, suffered a spinal cord injury during a car accident that left him paralyzed from the chest down. Hard work at home and in the Comprehensive Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite has allowed him to regain feeling down to his thighs. Determined to overcome the obstacles set in place by his injury, Bill is learning to play wheelchair sports and continues to push himself so that he can someday return to swimming and playing football and basketball.
Julia, age 15, lost the ability to move the left side of her body after suffering a stroke caused by a brain hemorrhage. Though she has experienced two strokes, she is walking and regaining feeling in her left arm thanks to her hard work and the rehabilitation team at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta who describe Julia as a “very motivated young lady.” When not working to regain muscle strength, Julia is a social butterfly who loves country music and dancing.
Justin, age 18, was diagnosed with bone cancer in 2010. He had an amputation as a result of local control of cancer, and now uses a prosthetic from Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and continues to receive chemotherapy. Justin always stays positive and is adored by staff at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta who admire his upbeat spirit. In his free time, Justin enjoys music and keeping up with his friends. This fall, he will begin his senior year at Crim High School in Atlanta.
Josie has overcome Guillain-Barre (Ghee-yawn Buh-ray) Syndrome, a neurological disorder that causes the immune system to attack peripheral nerves and often results in muscle weakness or loss of muscle function. When Josie was diagnosed in January, she had no feeling from the waist down and required a wheelchair for mobility. With hard work, a positive attitude, and help from the rehabilitation team at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, she has regained the ability to walk and is an inspiration to other patients. This fall, she will be a junior at Bible Baptist Christian School.
GAGE & QUINNLIN
Twelve-year-old Gage Roberts and his 10-year-old sister Quinnlin share more than parents and a home in metro Atlanta—they both have Autosonomal Recessive Polycystic Kidney disease, a rare disease that damages the kidneys and eventually leads to renal failure. Both children needed kidney transplants to survive, and both children received new, healthy kidneys at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston thanks to two brave women from their church who each donated one of their healthy kidneys. Gage received his life-saving transplant in March 2007, and Quinnlin received hers two and a half years later in September 2009—on her eighth birthday. Talk about a birthday present! Despite having spent many days and nights in the hospital, both children have continued to display tremendous strength, no doubt thanks to having two great role models of their own: mom Julia and dad Julian, who are actively involved in the Atlanta Chapter of the PKD Foundation as well as advocates for organ donation.
Eleven-year-old Maggie suffered an aneurysm and stroke last summer and had 40 percent of her cerebellum removed as a result. For the past year, Maggie has worked diligently to recover and has successfully re-learned how to eat, talk and walk. She is now a sixth grade student at Gainesville Middle School, where she is excited to join the band and learn to play the clarinet. Maggie loves helping others and is even planning her own fundraiser to support Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
Full of spirit and a horse enthusiast, Samantha led fellow Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Orthotics & Prosthetics Program patients during the third annual McKeever’s First Ride, a therapeutic outing for patients in the Orthotics & Prosthetics program. Be it reading about horses or coloring them in books, Samantha is a passionate spirit. Samantha, who was born with a congenital limb deficiency, even has horses on her prosthesis. After being adopted from China at 19 months of age, Samantha began undergoing care at Children’s and received her first prosthesis at age two. Her determined spirit never let anything get in her way, and she quickly learned to walk just four weeks later. As the youngest of five children, Samantha has been named the most adventurous of the family.