The Power of Ducks

I’ve never really been that into ducks. That said, recent events have done a lot to change my perspectives on a number of things.

Over the last few years, I’ve helped to coordinate the Cioffredi & Associates Volunteer Massage & Recovery Tent at the CHaD Hero. It’s been a wonderful opportunity to give back to the community that has been our home for over three decades. I am proud of Team Cioffredi’s contribution, amounting to hundreds of hours volunteered and thousands of dollars raised, and feel privileged to be part of this effort to support kids and families. This year, however, supporting the CHaD Hero hits home on an entirely different level.

Team Cioffredi at the 2019 CHaD Hero
Team Cioffredi at the 2019 CHaD Hero

Four months ago, my family had the worst experience of our lives. My daughter, Aurora (Rory) was diagnosed with Beckwith-Wiedemann Syndrome (BWS), a rare disorder that affects less than 0.01% of children and puts her at high risk for developing abdominal tumors. Our very first routine ultrasound screening manifested our worst fears, revealing a non-operative, abnormal mass in her liver. We struggled to understand how our healthy toddler could be sick, what we would need to put her through to diagnose and treat her, and how we could possibly explain it to her. I can’t begin to explain how terribly surreal and utterly debasing it felt. A lot of what happened over the following chaotic hours and days is fuzzy, but a couple moments will always stick with me:

Rory clutching on tightly to the plush duck the social worker gave us after learning of her fondness for them before her MRI… Holding my confused and terrified little girl tightly as the doctors sedated her… Crying inconsolably over a turkey sandwich while my wife, Jenaya, held me… losing the quickest game of war I have ever played to Jenaya in the Garden of Hope hoping to distract ourselves while we waited for results… Saying over and over, “She’s going to be the best she can be. We are going to give her the best we can”… And then getting the surprising call that there was absolutely nothing abnormal on the MRI. The confusion, relief, tears, joy. The hugs and warm touches from seemingly everyone, the unending stream of support… Rory waking up, loopy, hungry, and quite upset by it all.

When I reflect back on it now, what stands out in the haze is the acute tenderness and sincere humanity of it all. The entire CHaD team treated us with a profound level of respect and empathy that amazes me. Every person we interacted with was knowledgeable, comforting, supportive, and caring. We never felt alone.

We still don’t know exactly what happened with that first test. We recently went through another round of the routine screenings Rory will need every three months for the rest of her childhood. I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t anxious and fearful, but the Child Life team provided help, distraction and comfort throughout, for both Jenaya and me as well as Rory… And luckily there was nothing abnormal on the screen this time. There are many more to come, but I know that regardless of what happens moving forward we are in the hands of some incredible people that truly care about us and our daughter. I wouldn’t want to be with anyone else.

For now, we are the lucky ones. I don’t pretend that our small scare compares to what many other families are going or have gone through. But I got a small taste and it shook me to my core.  It gives me a deep appreciation for the power and resiliency of others that are living through their worst fears and my heart goes out to them. And that’s why I feel that CHaD’s services are so important. Every kid deserves the kind of care and support we received. Every kid deserves a plush ducky to hug tightly when they are scared.

Rory plays with her stuffed duck
Rory plays with her duck

Suffice it to say, I am more motivated than ever to continue supporting CHaD this year. I certainly am reminded of the kindness and value of their services daily as Rory cheerfully quacks along with her little duck on our living room floor. While Team Cioffredi won’t be able to volunteer onsite this year due to COVID, you’ll still find us out there running, fundraising and giving back in any way we can. I hope that you are able to lend your support as well. Together, we can put ducks in the arms of all the scared kids (and maybe a few dads) out there.

— Matt G., Rory’s dad and captain of Team Cioffredi

You’ll find Matt and Rory out exploring the Upper Valley most weekends, rain or shine.

Donate to Matt’s CHaD Hero team here.

#JOSIEstrong

For as long as I can remember I’ve been a catalyst for fitness endeavors for good causes.  A CHaD HERO participant since its very first half marathon, I’ve relished in rallying the troops among my River Valley Club (RVC) colleagues, recruited friends and clients to conquer their first 5Ks and proudly held the honor as Board Treasurer for the school based program, Finding Our Stride, omni-present with mass numbers of young runners from all over the Twin States.

Jennifer (JK) and Molly, Josie’s mom

I wish everyone could have a best friend like mine.  I have her heart, and her children are my niece and nephew in every sense of the word.  January 29, 2021 started out as a “typical” school day in our new normal and ended with a leukemia diagnosis for 9-year-old Josie, my best friend Molly’s daughter.

Jennifer (JK), Molly, Josie and Samson (Josie’s brother)

From that day on, my best friend, her beautiful family and sweet Josie would never be the same.  In non-COVID times, I would rush to be by their side as “Auntie J,” giving comfort and that physical rock to whomever needs it.  But alas, with restrictions and mandated distance, I vowed to do the most impactful thing I could do – back to the wheelhouse of rallying troops to make change.  While not surprising, the support and kindness of so many in this community for Josie’s family has been remarkable.  They are all most grateful.

Josie at CHaD (left), Josie and her brother, Samson (right)

Seven months later, sweet 10-year old Josie is in remission, times are a bit different and among the chaos and fear, true heroes have emerged.  Not just Josie, but also her loving parents, Rick and Molly, her beautiful younger brother Samson, Dr. Jeremy Madrid, Dr. Julie Kim and all of the staff at CHaD who cared for our girl.

The CHaD HERO is perfectly fitting and I am most proud to captain TEAM JOSIE for 2021!  Well on our way to our goal of 200 teammates, JOSIE DAY will be held on SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 19th.

Josie Day is Sept. 19!

RVC and many other fitness professionals in the Upper Valley are collaborating, hosting multiple fitness events, workouts and activities for our team.  Whether in-person or virtual, these offerings will be posted and are open to ALL in the community with a registration for the virtual CHaD HERO. The lists of events are available on social media postings from @UpperValleyFitnessNetwork and @rivervalleyclub.  The most special part of joining our team is the cheerleading from the bravest, strongest CHaD HERO ever, Josie.  This world is a better place with her thriving in it. 

#teamJOSIE

#JOSIEstrong

Rick, Josie’s dad (left), Team Josie (right)

— Jennifer Karr, RVC Personal Trainer Lead and Group Exercise Instructor, Team Josie captain and Josie’s “Auntie J”  

A few words from our Race Director

“First of all, THANK YOU for your upcoming participation in the 16th annual CHaD HERO!

I have taken on the race director responsibilities this year after helping the CHaD HERO team with last year’s virtual event.  My family recently moved to the Upper Valley but I have been playing on the Upper Valley’s roads, trails and lakes for the last 25 years.  I like to get outdoors and play as often as I can to experience the comradery that comes with these events and I could not be happier to be part of the CHaD HERO team.  I have participated in events ranging from the New London Hospital Days Triathlon to multiple Ironmans, snowshoe races, trail ultras and even a paddle board race thrown in for fun! In addition to participating in races of all sizes and venues, I have worked aid stations, managed triathlon transition areas and enjoyed having the unique position of the lead bike for multiple road races.  The most recent event I enjoyed was the Loon Mountain Race a few weeks ago.  I look forward to drawing on all of that knowledge to help deliver a fun and logistically smooth event.

This year we will be focusing on the in-person 5K Run on September 26th.  It is disappointing to leave the other traditional event elements (half marathon, bike, hike, 1-mile fun run, 5K Walk) off the schedule but given the circumstances with COVID, it is the right decision for this year. Of course, you can participate, anywhere, anytime, as a virtual participant. As always, funds raised from the CHaD HERO support the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock (CHaD).

We recently received exciting news that we will be allowed to have a mass start in downtown Hanover for the 5K Run.  *Please note this live portion of the event is contingent on CDC, state, local, Dartmouth-Hitchcock, and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health guidelines at that time. The mass start option is great news and I am looking forward to the race day excitement (and a few stomach butterflies).  The mass start allows you to test your fitness head to head or share the time running side by side with your friends.

Good luck with your fundraising and we look forward to seeing you in September!  Be sure to say “hi” to me on race day or before if we cross paths in our training.” – Mike Koron, CHaD HERO Race Director

Top 2020 Fundraiser, Jen, Shares her CHaD Story

Winston in the ICN at CHaD hugging his little stuffed animal, wearing a blue and white striped bow tie and a white button down shirt

Winston at CHaD on Mother’s Day 2019

“We organized Winnie’s Warriors in honor of our son, Winston. He was born nine weeks early, on February 16, 2019 and passed away on May 30, 2019. He spent all 14 weeks of his life in the NICU at CHaD. CHaD is near and dear to my heart, as I was the Associate Nurse Manager of the Medical Intensive Care Unit (MICU) for several years before leaving in June 2019.

My husband and I wanted to give back to the hospital for taking such incredible care of Winston and our family, and thought the CHaD HERO was perfect way. I was hoping to raise $500 when we started, but was quickly blown away at the outpouring of love and support. Our team of two quickly grew to 47 amazing family members, friends and co-workers. We were so fortunate to have the most phenomenal team care for Winston at CHaD.” — Jen Lyon, Winston’s Mom

Team Winnie's Warriors groups together in their blue team shirts at the 2019 CHaD HERO, sitting on the stage, under a tent.

Team Winnie’s Warriors at the 2019 CHaD HERO

Jen’s team, Winnie’s Warriors, raised more than $45,000 for CHaD programs and services in 2019. What an amazing example of community support. In 2020, when the HERO was moved to a virtual event, Winnie’s Warriors raised $14,096. Jen personally raised $8,603 and was our 2020 top fundraiser!

Jen Lyon participating in last year’s virtual CHaD HERO

In addition to supporting CHaD with Team Winnie’s Warriors, Jen’s husband, John, is hosting a fundraiser for CHaD called Wilkins Harley Davidson Motorcycle Skills, Training, & Challenge on August 27th! Riders can participate in the 2021 Northeast Motorcycle Skills Training and Challenge, navigating through various cone patterns without knocking over or touching cones. The event is to promote motorcycle safety to riders of all levels of experience. All proceeds raised will support CHaD! 

Team Winnie’s Warriors participating in the 2020 virtual CHaD HERO

Team Winnie’s Warriors is back for the third year, with a new member on board. Winston’s little sister, Eleanor, has joined the team! You can check out their team page here.

Meet 2021 Kid HERO Ainsley!

Ainsley was born at just 36 weeks old, a Leap Day baby, due to an emergency C-section as I had preeclampsia and the HELLP syndrome (high blood pressure during pregnancy). Pregnancy was going smoothly until I had a severe pain that wrapped around my belly. A quick trip to the doctor’s office told me I was having the baby that night. I was transferred to Dartmouth-Hitchcock for the C-section. Ainsley was born a little peanut weighing just 5 lbs. 8 oz. and measuring 18.7 inches long. Receiving two 9/10 APGAR scores, we thought we had a healthy baby and had been through the worst of it.

Kid HERO Ainsley at CHaD

The second night at Dartmouth-Hitchcock she began moaning, which continued through the night and into the next day. She wanted nothing to do with eating. Thankfully, a grandmother with instinct began to ask questions, and the doctors at Dartmouth-Hitchcock ran all kinds of tests on her to figure out why she would not eat to make sure she was OK. This is when they found out she had an interrupted aortic arch, ventricular septal defect, and atrial septal defect (congenital conditions). She was rushed over to CHaD’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and shortly after was sent to Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH). We had no idea she would be born with a heart condition until that moment. That is when we received a whirlwind of information from Dr. Flanagan the cardiologist at CHaD who tried to prepare us for what was to come.

At just four days old, Ainsley underwent open heart surgery at BCH and handled it like a champ. The next month would bring many challenges for Ainsley but each and every one she came out stronger.  When her chest tubes were being removed, she needed CPR, which then put her on an ECMO machine, and a week later we finally got to the step-down unit, which provides an intermediate level of care between the intensive care unit and general surgery. Still refusing to eat, she underwent her second surgery for a g-tube to help her eat. 38 days later we finally got to bring our baby girl home.

Ainsley with her parents after heart surgery

This now meant many appointments at CHaD, the hospital a bit closer to home. They were wonderful, helping us get all appointments on the same day and working to wean her off the eight medications we came home on. Molly’s Place at the CHaD Family Center gave me this wonderful binder where I was able to keep track of everything and offered us gas cards to help with the expense of driving to these appointments. Just a few months later, one of the doctors helped us to remove the g-tube and we were able to feed Ainsley without it.

Ainsley, wearing a polkadot sweatshirt,  raising her arms and smiling standing in a red wagon.

A few years went by, appointments seemed to be getting fewer and farther between and life was very normal for us.  Ainsley was a typical three year old. However, we went for her echocardiogram around Christmas time where Dr. Goode, her cardiologist at CHaD, told us he thinks it’s time for Boston to help again as Ainsley had some scar tissue near the aortic arch. The words, as parents, we never wanted to hear again. 

At age four, Ainsley had to undergo another surgery for what they told us was a simpler procedure compared to what she had already been through. She once again handled this surgery like a champ, much harder on us parents since she was old enough to know what was going on. We were not staying at home, not eating home food, etc. Ainsley came out of this surgery in heart block (an abnormal heart rhythm) once again. When she was a baby, she was in heart block for 14 days, but then came out of it and we escaped having to have a pacemaker inserted. This time we were not so lucky. Ainsley needed a pacemaker, so back to the operating room once again. All of this happening while the pandemic was starting to hit the US – it was very scary and unsettling. Fourteen days later we got to go home. Child Life has definitely been a life saver for us, helping Ainsley along the way with toys and distractions to help ease some of the pain.

Ainsley playing with toys and games provided by Boston Children’s Child Life team

Throughout all of this Ainsley has been nothing but a strong, brave, normal little girl. She is in dance class, rides her bike, enjoys camping and playing outdoors. She is always happy and school and day care tell us she is a wonderful friend – words any parents want to hear.  We are so proud of her and have always thought she is our HERO. There were no better words than to hear from CHaD that our child would be chosen to be the 2021 Kid HERO. We are beyond thrilled and couldn’t be happier to share our story. We are thankful for Ainsley’s team of doctors at CHaD who collaborate with BCH and for Child Life for letting Ainsley be a kid while in the hospital and bringing a huge smile to her face. Dr. Goode is amazing with her, always letting her use his stethoscope and pretend to be his doctor. Ainsley tells us she would like to be a doctor someday like Dr. Goode and Dr. Lim Liberty!

We are thankful for CHaD. We like to pay it forward by donating items to CHaD Child Life, and we thank you for your fundraising efforts to help all the children at CHaD be a kid.

– Jessica, Ainsley’s mom

Ainsley and her parents, Jason and Jessica standing together, similing, in the sand with a pond in the background.

Ainsley with her parents, Jason and Jessica

Register today for the 2021 CHaD HERO today by visiting www.chadhero.org to support CHaD’s 95,000 pediatric patients like Ainsley.

Thank you, CHaD HEROES!

HERO participant Crosby, celebrating with his HERO medal!

Thank you, CHaD HEROES! You made the 15th annual CHaD HERO a heroic event for CHaD kids. When we had to pivot to a virtual event in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we knew that many of our supporters would be up for the challenge, but you exceeded even our expectations.

900 participants from 26 states fundraised, hiked, biked, ran, walked, and completed Virtual Quests over 15 days to support the kids and programs at Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock (CHaD). Thanks to you, we were able to make the virtual CHaD HERO another success and raise over $517,000 for our Child Life Program, Child Advocacy and Protection Program and more.

CHaD HERO participants are all smiles after completing their virtual HERO activities!

2020 Kid HERO Crew

2020 Kid HERO Crew

For this year’s 15th annual CHaD HERO, 10 outstanding Kid HEROES inspired and encouraged our HERO community by sharing their CHaD stories, creating art and videos, judging our Costume Contest entries, and speaking at our Virtual CHaD HERO Celebration. Our Kid HERO Crew also participated in unique ways raising thousands of dollars for CHaD programs and services. Kid HERO Shannon ran her fastest 5K, Owen walked the neighborhood with his mom and Jasper spent a few days backpacking through the White Mountains with his dad!

2020 CHaD HERO Highlights

  • We honored Joanna Grossman Miller with the HERO Legacy Award at our Virtual CHaD HERO Day Celebration. This year marked her 15th CHaD HERO. She has participated in every event since the beginning. Congratulations and thank you, Joanna!
  • Despite the unique virtual format of this year’s HERO, our Food Committee rallied their friends and family to create the Food Tent Faithfuls team. They hosted their own Virtual Quest workout class and raised over $9,000. It was an incredible show of support during a challenging year.
  • Thanks to Hanover Brick and Brew – Ramunto’s, top youth fundraisers received Ramunto’s gift certificates to enjoy some post-event pizza!

Your fundraising dollars support critical programs and services at CHaD

Be on the lookout 2021 CHaD HERO details at CHaDHERO.org. Registration opens April 28 on National Superhero Day!

HERO committee members participating in the 2020 virtual CHaD HERO!

Training for a Half Marathon

Jeff hiking with his family

For a legitimate training plan to run a half marathon you should check out this Runner’s World site which has a range of regimes based on your age, abilities, and intentions. 

For an illegitimate training plan, read on, I have some other ideas.

With running or hiking, I appreciate the chance to turn off the mind, sweat a little, and take in the outdoors.  With these factors in the balance, there are two workouts that I favor.

Running the Northern Rail Trail

What I love about the Rail Trail: it is flat… it is beautiful…it has no traffic whatsoever.  There are rail trails all over New England and locally we have one that runs from Lebanon along the Mascoma River and Mascoma Lake and well into central NH.  You can find out more about the Rail Trail HERE  (you have to create an account, which is fast and free, and the wealth of information about rail trails across the region is well worth it).

Hiking New Hampshire’s 4,000 ft. Mountains

Hiking can be tough but the views, connection to nature, sense of accomplishment, and lock-step merit badge accumulation tip the scales in favor of heading out.  Like the Rail Trail, the degree of workout is completely in your hands – walk slow and smell the roses or jog the flats and scamper the steeps, either way is going to get you the view (and have you feeling it on the stairs the next day).  There are 48 peaks in NH that are over 4,000 feet, each with their own flavor, so something for everyone and a standing lifelong challenge to get to the top of each of them.  See more HERE.

— Jeff Hastings, Co-founder of CHaD HERO

CHaD HERO Pedestrian Safety Tips

During the CHaD HERO, everyone is a pedestrian! Whether walking, running, or hiking at some point you’ll probably be sharing a road with drivers who may not be paying attention or driving unsafely.  Our motto here at CHaD is “See, Be Seen” and we want you to be a safe and happy HERO!  Here are a few tips to help with that:

  • Wear clothing that is bright with reflective highlights, even in daylight.
  • Use sidewalks whenever possible.
  • If there aren’t sidewalks then walk as far to the side of the road as possible facing oncoming traffic.
  • Use crosswalks if available, even if it means walking a little farther.
  • Distracted walking can be as dangerous as distracted driving.  Put the cell phone away. Think about the walk, not the talk!
  • Watch for cars coming out of driveways and be especially careful in parking lots.
  • Supervise children and hold hands with young ones.

Injuries can spoil your walk/run/hike so take some time to plan out your route to avoid potential fall hazards like uneven surfaces.  Wear sunscreen or protective clothing if it’s sunny. Using a brimmed hat and sunglasses can not only protect your eyes they can help with solar glare that can block your vision. 

Make sure that your shoes are broken in but not broken down.

If you’re prone to blisters in a certain spot consider using an anti-chafing balm ahead of time. Waterproof bandaids or a product like KT tape can be effective for blister prevention as well. 

Make sure someone knows where you are going and a time you expect to be back.  If walking in a group, have someone with a blinking light in the front and in the back.  The person in the back can also be the “sweep” to make sure no one falls behind.

Water and healthy snacks make the walk easier.  For little ones, this will be an adventure but consider a bailout plan in case they lose enthusiasm or the weather takes a nasty turn.  You can always be a HERO another day!

Whatever you do have fun and know that every dollar you raise is helping kids throughout NH and VT.

— Jim Esdon, Program Coordinator at CHaD Injury Prevention Center

HERO Safety Blog Post Series sponsored by

6 Tips for Your First 5k

1) Use the Right Plan

A lot of people start strong with all the best intentions of running consistently, but fall short after a week or two. To avoid this, find a beginner 5k plan that works for you (Check out our Beginner Running Plan at runnersalley.com for an example). With the right plan, you will avoid over training or increasing your mileage too much too fast, which are leading causes of running injuries.

Following a plan will keep you consistent and accountable so you will be able to conquer the letdown that happens after a few weeks of starting something new. However, consistency doesn’t mean beating yourself up when life gets in the way. Modify the plan as needed to keep yourself from burning out, even if it means repeating a week.

2)  The right shoes are important

Do I need good running shoes? What makes a good running shoe? What happens if I don’t get a good running shoe? These are all great questions. There are so many factors that go in to getting a good running shoe.

Thankfully running specialty stores are here to show you what running shoes are appropriate for you personally. Stop by your local Runner’s Alley and get The Right Fit™ to stay healthy and happy during your running journey. Our staff will help you find the right shoes and all the other gear you might need, including socks and apparel.

3) Warming Up

Take a few minutes to warm up your muscles using a dynamic warm-up. Before you take a step, you want to make sure to prepare your muscles and ligaments to run, open up your joints, and get your heart rate going. From leg swings for your hips and hamstrings, to arm circles to promote good posture, you’ll be ready to go.

4) Keeping the Pace

One of the most challenging questions is “How fast should I run?” When training for your first 5k, it is important to keep yourself moving at a rate where you can keep a conversation. By keeping it conversational, you will keep your heart rate down and allow yourself to run longer. Don’t forget, you are adding time and distance, not speed.

It might be a good way to run with a buddy. Of course, please practice social distancing if your buddy isn’t a member of your household. A running partner will help you keep your mind off of the stresses on your body, keep your pace consistent, and give you accountability!

5) Don’t Forget to Recover

As you finish your run, walk for a few minutes to help your heart rate decrease and cool you down. Then, make sure to stretch and recover after your run. Here is where static stretching can help. By stretching warm muscles for 30-60 seconds, you will improve flexibility. You should feel tension in a stretch, but not pain. If you feel pain in your stretch, back off until you feel tension.

Another great way to help recover from your run and keep you injury free is foam rolling and other tissue manipulation. Foam rolling will break down knots in your muscles and helps improve circulation, making it a great companion with stretching. For some great options, check out runnersalley.com

Don’t stop at your muscles!  Rehydrating and adding protein to help rebuild your muscles within 20-30 minutes after your run is important too.

6) Run your Race

Once race day comes, it’s time to shine! You’ve spent weeks preparing for this, so don’t do anything different than you have been doing. If you are at a live race, give yourself extra time to warm up, use the restroom, and be ready to go when your number is called. If you are running at home, know your route beforehand and run at the same time you normally would. Have fun and remember it’s all for a good cause!

— Team at Runner’s Alley

Meet Kid HERO Abigail!

Abigail working with clay on a pottery wheel

Abigail, 2020 Kid HERO Crew member

When we found out we were having a girl we were all so excited. I wanted a girl. And everything was going well until the end of my pregnancy. I had gotten into this bizarre car accident where a tree fell down around my car while I was driving home from work with no real damage. I felt fine and the ambulance came and Abigail was kicking so I went home. Abigail soon started to slow down and I had heard that that sort of happens towards the end when babies run out of space, but Abigail really slowed down a lot. We were sent to APD for a scan – steady heartbeat but the ultrasound tech could not get Abigail to budge so I was admitted to Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital (APD). They put a bunch of monitors on me and gave me a sleeping pill and at four or five o’clock in the morning I was woken up and told that I needed to have an emergency C-section.

James, my husband, was told to say goodbye and brought to another room. Abigail was delivered and resuscitated. They said she suffered hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy and she was DHARTed via ambulance to CHaD. I came to right before they whisked her off to to CHaD’s Intensive Care Nursery (ICN) and I got to hold her hand through the box that she was in. Abigail was connected pretty much to everything they could put on her; she was intubated. She had heart monitors and all sorts of things attached to her.

Abigail in CHaD’s NICU

Fortunately I was able to recover from my C-section at Dartmouth-Hitchcock as well. Once I got settled into my room, a team of about a dozen doctors (I think most of them were students) came in and talked to us about Abigail. They said she had a lot of damage to her brain and they doodled on these sketch pads that had a picture of a brain on them to kind of scribble the parts that had damage to her brain and told us what we should be expecting if Abigail were to survive. I remember the Doctor who first started telling us this was wiping tears away himself as he told us what had happened to Abigail.

She had failure in every organ and was on every form of life support that the hospital has to offer. We made sure Abigail had run through the complete three days of cooling and stayed by her side as much as we could. I remember a photographer came and offered free baby photos for a new family photo shoot for us in the NICU. Abigail was still very connected to all the wires at the time and it was a hard for us not to cry in those pictures.

Abigail with her parents in NICU

Abigail and her parents in the NICU

We had a daytime nurse, Keileigh, and a nighttime nurse, Sterling, volunteer to become Abigail’s nurses. They were only in charge of Abigail while they were there and James and I became good friends with both of those ladies and still keep in touch with them. 

Abigail started to improve. She slowly came off life support and though we were still warned to expect a lot of disability, we were so thrilled with her progress. We took Abigail home from the hospital two weeks after she was born and although she made so much progress from her birthday, she was classified as failure to thrive, so we had a visiting nurse come to our apartment in Hanover at least once a week. Abigail had visiting therapists as early as I can remember. Pushing her along her milestones and honestly as a brand new mom it was helpful to have a little guidance.

I became a very busy secretary after Abigail was born. She had a date book full of appointments going back to see all sorts of specialists at CHAD with multiple appointments every week. And I always felt like I was bringing a celebrity to the doctors. Everyone who had known her from the ICN would come by and check on her regardless of who we were scheduled to see. It was very clear that everyone was very invested in Abigail and her progress.

Not long after Abigail got her first hearing aid we moved to Florida. There, Abigail was put into speech therapy. Abigail soon after had a sedated Auditory Brainstem Reponse (ABR) test and ended up with two hearing aids this time. While in Florida we had a baby boy named Danny who is Abigail’s best friend, annoying little brother, and constant companion. 

Abigail hugging her brother, Danny, outside in a field

Abigail and her brother, Danny

We continued to see an audiologist in Florida until we were able to move back home to New Hampshire. Moving back home we were so excited to be able to bring Abigail back to CHaD so she could get to see all her healthcare providers that have taken such good care of her before we moved away.

Abigail is a very bright, imaginative and caring. She adores all of her doctors, and for quite some time really wanted to be a pediatric audiologist. Abigail loves reading comic book novels, singing pop songs and dancing. She loves telling jokes and learning about nature. Abigail has her struggles with fine and gross motor skills and comprehension and executive functioning but she is a champion and a fighter. And so kind. And I am so proud of her every day. 

— Abigail’s mom, Georgia

Abigail with her family

The CHaD HERO 15-day event has begun! It’s not too late to register and create a team. You can virtually participate now until Sunday, October 18! Learn more and register at www.chadhero.org.