Children’s Miracle Network – Julianna

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As a new mom, Amber received a frightening phone call from her daughter’s daycare.

“I had to pick up our five-month-old daughter Julianna from daycare because she had an extremely high 103-degree fever,” Amber said. “We visited our doctor and they thought it was a cold or a virus.”

But Amber and her husband David became worried when Julianna’s fevers wouldn’t go down and her condition worsened.

“We would try and cool her down in the bathtub, but nothing could break her fever. She was getting lethargic where her eyes were glassy, and I went into mom mode.”

They rushed to after-hours care at Julianna’s primary care physician, and her doctor was troubled by her rapidly worsening condition. She immediately sent Julianna and her family to the Beverly Knight Olson Children’s Hospital. There, Julianna was diagnosed with a rare form of meningitis, a deadly bacterial infection that attacks the nerves in the brain.

Within 30 minutes of her diagnosis, multiple doctors and experts surrounded her bedside. Doctors hadn’t seen this rare strain of meningitis in decades, so specialists from across the state were called in to create an effective treatment plan.

The prognosis wasn’t hopeful.

“After some testing, doctors found extremely high infection levels in her blood,” Amber said. “They told us right then that they weren’t sure if she was going to pull through. The thought of losing our baby was truly traumatic.”

Julianna was admitted to the children’s hospital and spent one month in the pediatric ICU (PICU).

“It was a roller coaster. There were lots of MRIs, lots of X-rays, lots of testing,” Amber said.

Because she was infected with such a rare strain of meningitis, doctors prescribed antibiotics to battle the infection on a trial and error basis. While they were administering different medications, Julianna’s fevers weren’t coming down. She started to have seizures and her condition continued to spiral until doctors found the right antibiotics to combat the infection.

While Julianna struggled through the seizures, the medical team at the Children’s Hospital comforted Amber and David.

“We couldn’t have had better doctors, nurses, and staff,” she said. “When my baby was having a seizure, they pulled me out into another room to comfort, support, and be an encouragement to me. They were doctors, but they were also acting like family and friends. That helped. When you feel like everything is falling around you, you need someone to tell you everything is going to be OK."

Amber and David never left Julianna’s side while in the Children’s Hospital. They stayed overnight in her room for weeks – watching over their daughter and praying constantly.

"We wanted to take advantage of every moment because we didn't know if she would pull through. We never left her bedside because we wanted to be with her,” Amber said.

This month-long stay in the hospital took its toll on Amber and David, and things that were once enjoyable family traditions had to be postponed – like attending Macon’s Cherry Blossom Festival. But the Children’s Hospital staff made sure they didn’t miss the celebrations, even as Julianna was recovering in the PICU.

“The nurses told us to go to the festival, saying that we never leave the hospital and we should get out for a while,” Amber said. “Juliana was improving and having a good day, so one of her nurses came and sat in her room while David and I went downtown and spent a few hours. It was so nice! This is the one year I could’ve missed the Cherry Blossom Festival, and the nurses weren’t going to let that happen.”

One month after being admitted to the hospital, Julianna continued to improve, and tests confirmed the infection had fully cleared her system. But, the damage from the infection and the powerful antibiotic treatments left its mark on Julianna. She was released from the hospital unable to hear. Meningitis attacks nerves in the brain that control sight and hearing. The deadly infection combined with the strong antibiotics Julianna was prescribed caused hearing loss.

“We knew before we left that she couldn’t hear, but we had to come back a few days after we were released to perform some more advanced hearing tests,” Amber said. “That’s when we confirmed Julianna couldn’t hear at all.”

Fortunately, Julianna qualified for specialized cochlear implants – a surgically implanted device that allows her to hear again. Just three months after her release from the hospital, doctors implanted the cochlear devices. Soon after, the devices were activated, and Julianna was hearing by her first birthday just like any other child.

While she could now hear, Julianna needed to catch up to her peers. When she lost her hearing, she fell behind in regular hearing and speech development and she needed regular speech therapy at the Children’s Hospital.

The side effects of the infection also meant she needed physical and occupational therapy. Meningitis impacted Julianna’s balance, and therapy helped her learn to manage her condition and strengthen her balancing skills.

Today, Julianna has been released from all therapies and is a happy, thriving four-year-old who loves going to preschool. Her attitude and outlook on life inspires everyone, especially her mom.

“Julianna’s incredibly fun and so energetic. She absorbs everything and is always smiling,” Amber said. “She’s a fighter and nothing bothers her. She can fall and bump her head, but nothing can phase her. She just laughs it off.”

Now, when Amber and David drive by the Children’s Hospital and remember that difficult chapter of their family’s story, they are overwhelmed with thankfulness and a sense of peace.

“This hospital will always have a special place in our hearts as it reminds us just how amazing our God is,” Amber said. “He placed the perfect doctors and nurses in our lives at a time when David and I were seeking nothing but a miracle. They weren’t just there to take care of Julianna, but they were there to support and encourage us through the entire stay. We will be forever blessed and extremely thankful for the Beverly Knight Olson Children’s Hospital.”

Robins Financial Credit Union has partnered with the Children’s Miracle Network to raise money during a 6-week campaign that we are calling Miracle May. Help us reach our $30,000 fundraising goal to help kids like Julianna receive the treatment they need.

To make a donation, stop by any of our branches or call our Call Center. Branches will also host special fundraising events every Friday during the campaign. Help us create more miracles for children in our community through Children’s Miracle Network.