March 6, 2019
Following a severe accident that caused injuries from her neck to her pelvis, Hanna was airlifted to Children's Health Trauma Center for advanced care. During her journey, Hanna collected more than 700 Beads of Courage to represent different milestones or treatments, more than any other patient in the Children’s Health Trauma Program.
Hanna, age 11, was playing outside when a utility vehicle suddenly slipped out of gear and rolled down the hill crushing her against the tree.
She had no visible bleeding but was having trouble breathing and had a bruise across her abdomen. First responders feared she may be suffering from internal bleeding, so Hanna was airlifted to the only Level I Trauma Center in the area caring specifically for children, Children’s Medical Center Dallas.
When Hanna arrived in the ER, a trauma team of 22 people was waiting to immediately take care of her. An initial CT scan showed severe lacerations to her organs causing significant internal bleeding. Hanna's injuries were too severe for her to undergo surgery stably, so Children’s Health Interventional Radiology experts had another treatment option. They utilized state-of-the-art imaging technology and advanced techniques to help slow the bleeding and allow her blood to begin clotting on its own.
Hanna was then transferred to the Trauma ICU, where she would stay for the next 38 days.
“Some days were harder than others - especially in the beginning,” says Tonya, Hanna’s mom. “But the team of doctors and nurses were amazing.”
Hanna was sedated and intubated for the first four weeks to help give her body time to heal. For three weeks, she needed continuous dialysis and at one point, she had as many as a dozen lines connected. Still, her family held onto their hope that Hanna would be ok.
“The level of competency and the level of compassion and mercy that everyone involved in her care displayed was just unbelievable,” says Hanna’s dad Mart.
In addition to the medical care Hanna received by Children’s Health experts, another important player in her recovery was Boots, a lovable golden retriever in the pet therapy program at Children’s Health. Boots and his handler, Child Life Specialist Stephanie Haynes, are dedicated solely to trauma patients.
“Boots was a huge deal to Hanna and was a welcomed visitor for our entire family,” says Tonya.
Throughout her time at Children’s Health, Hanna and her family grew close to members of the Child Life team who helped address her concerns and questions about her experience.
“Hanna loves American Girl Dolls, so Stephanie worked hard to transform an American Girl Doll into Hanna, with all her lines, tracheostomy, feeding tubes and more to help her understand what was going on,” says Tonya. “It was so special to all of us, but especially Hanna. She still has that doll today and loves that they share the same scar from where their trachs used to be.”
Over time, Hanna grew strong enough to move out of the ICU and was transferred to Our Children’s House, Children’s Health’s pediatric inpatient rehabilitation facility. She was discharged three months after the incident, and her parents say that other than a few scars, it’s like it never even happened. She has no breathing issues or major lingering effects from her injuries and is otherwise back to her old self.
Hanna recently took a big step attending sleep-away camp for the first time at Camp Phoenix, specifically developed for children who have been trauma patients at Children’s Medical Center Dallas.
As soon as she arrived, Hanna spotted an old friend in the distance, one who had laid by her side so many times during her journey and gave her the gentle nudges she needed to keep fighting - Boots!
“She had a blast,” says Mart. “Some of the same individuals who cared for her during her time at Children’s Health were there as counselors and volunteers, so it was great for her to reconnect with them as well.”
During her journey, Hanna collected more than 700 Beads of Courage to represent different milestones or treatments. Children’s Health was the first pediatric hospital in the nation to introduce the Beads of Courage program in their Trauma Center. The program is designed to support children and families going through serious illnesses or medical events by giving them a tangible tool with which to tell their story. Patients may receive beads to denote a-number-of steps along throughout their treatment and recovery, including a new IV, an X-ray taken, an overnight stay or even a blood transfusion, among many others.
Hanna received more beads than any other patient in the Children’s Health Trauma Program.
“Sometimes, I look at them and just start crying, but they truly are a representation of all that Hanna has overcome, which makes us incredibly grateful,” says Tonya.
Out of gratitude for the remarkable care that Hanna receives at Children's Health, the Armstrong family and their friends selected Children’s Medical Center Foundation as the beneficiary of their annual clay shoot fundraiser for 2017-2019. To date, gifts from the event have exceeded $200,000.