Jenny Mercieca describes her family prior to October 2012 as “not hospital people.” She had never had a reason to take her two girls to the Pediatric ER at Huntsville Hospital for Women & Children. She wasn’t one of those moms who rushed to the pediatrician at the first sniffle either. She knew the hospital was there, but never thought she would need it. Now, she knows staff all over the hospital—from Admitting to the Pediatric ICU.
At 15 months-old, Jenny’s daughter Bailey began manifesting some very odd symptoms that resulted in their first trip the Pediatric ER. What first appeared to be the clumsy tottering of a toddler turned into an uncontrollable stumbling, her eyes darted around rapidly for no explainable reason, and she had difficulty eating and sleeping. Eventually, Bailey lost her ability to walk completely and she only wanted to be held.
At first, Bailey’s pediatrician and the Emergency Room physician could not determine what was causing her symptoms and thought it may be an inflamed cerebellum that would eventually subside. When her condition remained unchanged, Jenny knew something was terribly wrong. Internet research revealed that there were other possible diagnoses, but they seemed too rare and unusual. Finally, Bailey was seen in the St. Jude Affiliate Clinic at Huntsville Hospital for Women & Children. An ultrasound at this appointment revealed a neuroblastoma tumor on her adrenal gland. The very next day, Bailey had surgery to remove the tumor at the Women & Children’s hospital.
Bailey was also diagnosed with Opsoclonus Myoclonus Syndrome (OMS). OMS, a rare neurological autoimmune disorder, occurred when her body got “confused” and began attacking her brain.
Bailey and her family travel to Illinois to visit an OMS specialist every few months, and he oversees her treatment plan, but otherwise all of Bailey’s care has been right here at Huntsville Hospital for Women & Children—close to home. Jenny says it has been a miracle how everything has worked out. “It’s wonderful that we have access to such great doctors and nurses as well as top of the line equipment and systems at Huntsville Hospital so we don’t have to go to Birmingham, Nashville or larger cities for scans and surgeries.” The Meciecas have been blown away by the wonderful and compassionate people throughout the hospital who have cared for all of them.
Last summer the Mercieca family received a fabulous surprise thanks to the Dr. Frank Crim Compassion Fund for Children with Cancer at the Foundation. To protect Bailey from illness, she and her sister Hannah don’t leave home except for doctor appointments. During the summer they “needed some new entertainment,” Jenny said on her blog. So, that is exactly what they got— a new outdoor play set for the backyard! Jenny and her husband Alex are so grateful for such an amazing gift that has helped make what has seemed like an “impossible situation” better. Dr. Crim’s fund also provides other supplies Bailey needs for her continued care.
This past holiday season the Merciecas wanted to give back. Through “Bailey’s Toy Drive” they collected more than 1,600 toys for the hospital’s Child Life program!
Bailey is doing well. The cancer is gone but she is still receiving chemo treatments for OMS. The hope is that in a few years she will be symptom and medication free! She is walking again, talking and developing well in many other areas.
Jenny says she had never really stopped to think about the impact charitable gifts to the hospital make. But now, having been on both the giving and receiving end, she understands that any gift helps make treatment for children in our community, like Bailey, not only possible, but better!
From high-tech diagnostic equipment, to special kid-size surgical tools, even the toys and stuffed animals that make the hospital less scary—your gifts make it all possible! Thank you for your support!