It Takes a Lot of "Little Grapes" to Make The Big Grape!
Known for their courageous spirit, positive attitude and strong will to persevere, these young children are true examples of how your gifts from The Big Grape affect lives. Called "Little Grapes," children are selected each year to share their personal stories of determination. Because of you, these children, and countless others at Avera Children's Hospital, have directly benefited from your gifts and are living testaments of what you can do for the community by supporting The Big Grape. Read below and get to know them better!
While appendicitis can be pretty serious, most people expect that a routine surgery will get you back on the road to recovery. But this wasn't the case for Jolissa "JoJo" Hanson.
JoJo, an active, healthy 9-year-old, developed serious symptoms like non-stop vomiting, stomach pain and a dangerously high fever and heart rate. She was diagnosed with complicated acute appendicitis. Due to a large abscess in her abdomen, excessive fluid from the abscess and an obstructed/perforated bowel, doctors couldn't do surgery until nearly three months later. Her body couldn't seem to fight the infection despite the heavy antibiotics she was prescribed.
Her parents, Rick and Jill Hanson, express much gratitude for many blessings during three hospitalizations at Avera Children's Hospital; the quality care delivered by doctors and nurses; the encouragement and prayers of chaplains; and even the Treasure Chest, where JoJo picked out a blanket and a bear that held her tubing out of the way. "That bear never left her side," Jill said.
Leah, a Child Life Specialist, did activities with JoJo, such as syringe painting to keep her mind off the discomfort. "JoJo would get sad and depressed; Leah helped her each time," Jill said. Regardless of the size of gift to The Big Grape, "it comes from the heart and speaks volumes," Jill said. "Saying thank you doesn't seem like enough. It made a world of difference to JoJo."
Today, JoJo still feels some twinges of pain from scar tissue. Yet she's playing basketball and softball after being restricted from sports for so long. Now, she just wants to stay healthy so she can do whatever she wants to do.
Peyton and Maria
Casey Kills-in-Water will never forget the day – she’ll never forget the call. Her husband, Lawrence, took their two older children to school while she stayed with their two younger girls at their home in Wagner, S.D.
“An hour went past, and I started getting worried. Then I got a call from the hospital. In just a second, our whole lives changed,” Casey said.
After a devastating motor vehicle accident in March 2015, Peyton and Maria were hospitalized for several weeks at Avera Children’s Hospital. Lawrence also was hospitalized with a shattered ankle and broken vertebrae. Peyton, now 7 years old, sustained a spinal cord injury left him unable to walk. Maria, now 11, suffered from a traumatic brain injury. “There were nurses who were there for Peyton when I had to be with Maria,” Casey said.
During the long hospital stay, the family stayed at the Ronald McDonald House at the Walsh Family Village, which is supported by generous philanthropic donations. Peyton later was readmitted to the Avera Children’s Hospital Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) during a bout of pneumonia. When they were ready, both children were transferred to Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Lincoln, Neb.
Today, Peyton is doing well in school and likes to play video games. Maria had to relearn everything from talking to walking. “She has progressed much better than expected,” Casey said. “Her future is wide open.”
Day by day, the family is recovering from this devastating event. “My goal was to be a family again,” Casey said. Peyton wants to walk again, and he continues to undergo physical therapy. “We tell him not to give up – that we are not giving up hope that he will walk again. Miracles can happen,” Casey said.
Most parents don't expect to see their child go from a healthy childhood to having a rare neurological disorder, almost overnight.
But that's exactly what Ryan and Sarah Peterson experienced with their son, Ryker.
"Up until age 3 he had a normal childhood, and it just hit," Sarah said. Ryker was diagnosed with acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM), which causes serious symptoms such as confusion, loss of balance, blurred or loss of vision, muscle weakness leading to the inability to walk and feed oneself and more.
Ryker's bout with ADEM left him with damage to his optic nerve, affecting his vision. To help prevent future relapses and help him gain ground, Ryker is treated with intravenous immune globulin (IVIG), which requires that he come to Avera Children's Hospital every four weeks for a six- to eight-hour infusion.
Although this requires multiple pokes, Ryker, age 5, loves seeing his "hospital ladies" and playing on the iPads carried by the Child Life Specialists. "He walks in like he owns the place, and the nurses all love to see him," Sarah said.
The Peterson's appreciate the spiritual support of the chaplains and the patience of care staff. "There were times I would apologize for being a wreck, but no one ever got frustrated with me. They are always there for Ryker no matter what he needs."
People who donate to The Big Grape may not realize all the good they are doing, Sarah observes. "They know they are helping someone but they don't get to see the full picture."
Ryker likes going to the Treasure Chest, and he benefits from time spent with the Child Life Specialists. "They offer a sense of security," Sarah said. "These services are vital and need to continue."
When an MRI was recommended for their
9-month-old son, Laura and Rob Brown expected it to be routine. Wright had been having mild seizures which were controlled by anti-seizure medication.
So it was a shock when a mass, described as a ganglioglioma tumor, was detected. Wright underwent several hospitalizations and surgeries at Avera Children’s Hospital.
“One of my biggest fears was that we were going to have to travel far to receive the level of care we needed,” Laura said. “So when they told us we could get our care here in Sioux Falls, it was such a relief.”
The Browns appreciated the relationships they developed with caregivers. “It was such a comfort, that no matter what, they were going to take care of him and provide the best care.” Spiritual care was also a comfort. “Faith is important to me, and when you’re at a faith-based hospital, there is a different level of care,” Laura said.
Today, Wright is an active 5-year-old despite the chance of developmental delays. His one setback is his vision, compromised from the tumor pushing on his optic nerve. He benefits from wearing glasses, and has adjusted to them. Otherwise, he has no limitations and actually excels – especially at math. “We are thankful for the support of current programs such as the Child Life Specialists at Avera Children’s,” Laura said. “From the surgical team to nurses and radiologists, they all had his best interests at heart.”