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news item News Monday, March 4, 2019 Monday, March 4, 2019 12:21 PM - Monday, March 4, 2019 12:21 PM

Mickie: A full life made possible by Shriners Hospitals for Children and a child’s fortitude

2018 came to a close in spectacular fashion for 11-year-old Mickie. She was chosen to design the official Shriners Hospitals for Children — Chicago Christmas card. Her design featured Fezzy, the hospital's friendly bear mascot. Mickie was also invited to attend a Chicago Bears practice, where she got to meet the players, who personally greeted her. Then on December 9, Mickie was introduced at a Chicago Bears game and was projected on the Jumbotron. “The Bears were so nice to her,” says Mickie's mom, Erika. “They had such genuine smiles and the organization had a jersey made for her with her name on it. They treated her like a rock star. We are still glowing from the experience.”

All of these events are even more amazing when realizing that there was a time when Erika wasn't even sure her daughter would make it through the night. Mickie was born with the rare Pierre Robin syndrome, which left her with undeveloped airways, making breathing difficult. This was Erika's first child and she desperately went from specialist to specialist to find someone to help her baby. “I even traveled to Ohio to see doctors there. I was getting second and third and fourth opinions and didn't know what to do.” Then a speech pathologist who was working with Mickie suggested Shriners Hospitals for Children — Chicago.

“We went there and met Dr. Hammerberg, or, as I call him, saint on earth,” recalls Erika. He carefully diagnosed the 9-month-old infant's many issues, which included scoliosis and kyphosis, and presented a treatment plan. Over the next four years Mickie went through several procedures, including a three-month stay at the hospital to stretch her spine. It took many years but when Mickie was 5, the tracheotomy tube was removed and Mickie quickly began to thrive. She began to move around, eat food for the first time and be a happy little girl. “It was like night and day,” says Erika. “Shriners Hospitals gave Mickie her life back.”

Today, Mickie attends elementary school, plays both the piano and trumpet and loves to sing. She and her younger sister, Alyssa, are inseparable. She sports a winning smile that prompts others including Bears football players to be her friends. Mickie, like many other children, have found a promising future thanks to the dedicated staff at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Chicago. Kim Hammerberg, M.D., chief of spine surgery at the hospital, takes pride in treating each patient's individual needs. “The fundamental philosophy at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Chicago is to respect the child, listen to them and include them in all aspects of care,” says Dr. Hammerberg. He is continually amazed by the “inner strength and fortitude” of children like Mickie.

“Mickie wants to be everything,” says Erika. “She talks about being everything from a college professor to a surgeon. She truly wants to help others. When I think of the many times we almost lost her... rushing her to the hospital in the middle of the night, I am still in awe of what she is today and what she will be in the future. I am so grateful to Dr. Hammerberg and Shriners Hospitals.”

This story is adapted from one that originally appeared on Chicagotribune.com.

Mickie and family at Chicago Bears game