Defying All Odds: An HSNT Patient Story

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Born prematurely in Parkland at just 25 weeks, Emory entered the world weighing a mere one pound and eight ounces, teetering on the brink of life. Her journey unfolded in the sterile confines of a hospital for the first nine and a half months, as her determined parents fought fiercely for the fragile spark that was Emory. Transferred from Parkland to a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), Emory's survival hinged on the delicate balance of medical intervention, including the insertion of a tracheostomy tube to aid her breathing—an essential lifeline that tethered her to this world.

In the maze of healthcare intricacies, Emory's mother, Liz, recounts their odyssey, a saga rife with bureaucratic entanglements and medical difficulties. Transporting Emory in those early days required the constant accompaniment of medical professionals, her fragile state requiring the safety of an ambulance for each journey. When released from the NICU, Emory was placed in the temporary care of a Children’s Hospital, where Liz and her husband underwent a 48-hour assessment, proving their ability to care for their daughter’s intricate needs.

After being released from the hospital and on Medicaid due to Emory’s fragile health, Liz had to find a caregiver capable of tending to her daughter's unique needs. She wasn’t willing to risk Emory’s health and take her anywhere, nor would everyone accept her as a patient because of the hole in her throat and the hole in her stomach at the time. It was then in 2019 that Liz found Health Services of North Texas and Dr. Jo –a compassionate and dedicated physician who poured into mother and daughter equally. Liz shared, “Dr. Jo took care of her. She made sure that everybody knew, ‘Hey, listen, if this person calls, I need to know.’” Dr. Jo’s expertise and care provided a lifeline for Emory, ensuring she received the specialized attention and support she needed to thrive in the future.

The connection between Dr. Jo and Emory became even more remarkable when Liz realized an unexpected link between them. Reflecting on the conversation, Liz recalled, "It's quite ironic really, Dr. Jo's husband actually treated Emory at the NICU at Parkland. It was just meant to be." This revelation held deep significance for Liz, as it seemed to bind them by an invisible force of fate.

Due to Emory's additional needs, Dr. Jo attentively checks on her every six months to ensure she receives timely Occupational Therapy (OT), Physical Therapy (PT), and Speech Therapy. Despite being diagnosed with Intellectual Disability last year, caused from early-life oxygen deprivation, Emory continues to defy expectations. Her indomitable spirit remains unbroken, buoyed by the support of her family and healthcare team. There is comfort in the fact Emory’s mother doesn’t have to explain her daughters complicated situation over and over again to different specialists or providers, her daughter is able to receive effective, quality care from Dr. Jo and the other incredible specialists who support her.

Almost nine years later, Emory fills up rooms with her infectious smile. She goes to school every day with her peers, loves animals, and competes in horse shows, something no one had thought she would be able to do. Liz shares, “When she was two months old, she had a bad episode and by the time they got her back, the statement was made that we're not sure how she's going to do. We didn’t know if she would ever be able to hold her head up. But she loves to ride.”

Liz emphasized that there is help available for you and your family, you can find relief from all the stress you are under as a parent caring for a sick child, regardless of your circumstances. “She lightens our day. Just to see her. She's a big hugger, and she smiles. If she's not smiling, there's something wrong. And even sometimes when there's something wrong, she's still smiling. You know, if she thinks you're upset about something she'll come and give you a hug and ask, ‘Are you OK?’”