Hannas' Story

Here's the Hannas' story, in Tonya Hanna's own words:

"We became well acquainted with Children’s Hospital from the outset of our daughter Sara’s life. By age 9 months, she wasn’t reaching normal developmental milestones. Our fears that something was wrong were confirmed when she began having seizures.

Desmond Kelly, M.D., a Greenville developmental-behavioral pediatrician, pointed us in the right direction. We discovered that our daughter had Rett’s syndrome, a genetic disease. Our daughter’s illness marked the beginning of an incredible journey for us. Sara, now 8, still doesn’t walk or talk. She needs the same care as an infant – and so much more.

I, along with other parents of Rett’s syndrome kids, will tell you that our children catch every illness coming and going. We knew that, because of this disease, a normal cold could be deadly. So it wasn’t surprising that when our daughter became sick in the middle of April, her illness just wouldn’t let up. The doctors thought she had a cold or a sinus problem and took many cultures that didn’t reveal an answer.

But on the morning of April 29, my daughter had a fever of 105 degrees, was unresponsive, and was breathing hard and fast. I knew we had to get her to Children’s Hospital.

Before long, so many people were trying to get IV lines into Sara that there was nowhere to stand. Then, she lost consciousness. A frenzy of chest compressions began and a ventilator tube was required to help her breathe. I thought, is she really this sick? And, then: I’m watching my child being taken away from me. My child – always happy, smiling and blowing kisses – was lying there holding on for her life. My husband, caught in traffic, was trying desperately to reach us. All I could do was kiss my daughter’s foot and pray, please God, don’t let her die.

Sara had gone into septic shock, which caused her heart and other organs to shut down. The doctors and nurses were so caring, yet so straightforward with us, taking the time to answer every question in detail.

The crisis passed, and Sara remained in the hospital over the next few weeks. We waited on edge. How was this trauma going to affect her long-term? Would she have the same happy personality? She looked as if she’d never seen us before.

Fortunately,Children’s Hospital gave Sara and our family the extraordinary support we needed. It was clear that Sara wasn’t just another body in a bed. The staff genuinely cared about her. And, as a special-needs child who couldn’t walk or talk, she truly needed that extra attention. It made all the difference in helping us to hang on until the day my daughter finally gave me a kiss again.

My child had been dying before my eyes, and Children’s Hospital brought her back. Now she has more energy than ever! One morning after coming home, Sara made determined efforts to say, “I lu–” I asked, “Are you trying to say, ‘I love you?’” She grinned with her big blue eyes and answered, “Yeah!” It was our first real verbal communication!

Most people fuss at their children to be quiet and stop running around. We’re grateful just to hear Sara’s loud giggle! We know that other parents who find themselves at Children’s Hospital feel the same way. It’s so important to support these families – and the hospital.

Asa not-for-profit, Children’s Hospital can carry on its life-changing work of patient care, pediatric research, education and advocacy only through our generosity. Giving to Radiothon is our opportunity to help sick kids feel both special and “normal.” Miracle Makers like you and me help the hospital continue wonderful programs, including Child Life, in which specialists help children and their families cope with medical treatment through medical play. These professionals help children trust medical staff, ease kids’ fears of the unknown and much more.

And we’re making dreams come true. Our gifts help kids attend Camp Courage, where children with cancer or blood disorders have fun and enjoy normal camping activities with healthcare professionals on hand. With our help, kids with illnesses ranging from asthma to obesity may soon have that same chance to have a camping experience! For many of these seriously ill or chronically ill children, it will be the only time they will go canoeing or sing around a campfire.

Our dollars also help provide “distraction” toys for kids undergoing upsetting procedures. Educational toys, DVDs, gaming systems, games, crib mobiles and little red wagons in which children ride around the hospital are among the goodies that wouldn’t be possible without us. There’s also special equipment for procedures such as deep sedation, which helps alleviate the pain of difficult treatments such as spinal taps. All these measures add up to an environment that allows kids to be kids.

Imagine the face of a sick child who can play Nintendo® Wii™ during a stressful hospital stay! What if that child were your own? Let’s make sure that Children’s Hospital is always there for our children – for all the children in our community. Please join me now in bringing more smiles to families facing serious illness."

Get Involved

If you'd like more information on supporting our pediatric patients and families, contact Philanthropy & Partnership Director of Children's Services Crissy Maynard at (864) 797-7735 or cmaynard@ghs.org.

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