My family has been connected to Children’s Wisconsin for the past 13 years. When my first-born daughter, Mikayla, was 11 months old, we noticed that she was not meeting developmental milestones. She was diagnosed with lissencephaly, a genetic brain malformation. Seizures go hand-in-hand with this disorder, and by the time Mikayla was 3 years old, she had her first seizure and ambulance ride to Children’s Wisconsin. That began our journey to becoming a Children’s Wisconsin family. The seizures got exponentially worse, and by the time Mikayla was 5, she was also diagnosed with a severe form of epilepsy. We had just had our second child — a baby girl named Avry — so we were juggling a lot as young family.
Over the years, we have had many inpatient hospital stays, we have acquired 13 amazing specialist physicians, and made many, many nurse friends along the way. In one particularly bad year, we spent more than 70 days in the Neurosciences Center’s Epilepsy Monitoring Unit with Mikayla and her therapy dog Caprice. It was so comforting to be able to have Caprice. My husband and I took shifts staying at the hospital with Mikayla and being at home with Avry. Having our sweet and loyal golden retriever there helped us all feel comfort and not quite so alone.
In that year, I came to really appreciate the power of Children’s Wisconsin and feel such gratitude for having this wonderful hospital in our community. Having spent so much time there, I observed other families whose kids were getting treatment for a variety of conditions. I was grateful because I knew there was a day we could go home, and others would not. I was grateful for the care we received, and I knew we would always go home better off than when we came.
I decided then to pay it forward and become a volunteer at Children’s Wisconsin. In September of 2020, we adopted Junie, a golden retriever who had been a service dog in training to help a child with autism, but she couldn’t quite get the certification. We call Junie our “fabulous flunky.” She is now Avry’s dog, so each girl has a dog of their own. Junie was certified as a pet therapy dog in 2021, and I have been bringing her to Children’s Wisconsin to visit with patients twice a month as part of the Children’s Wisconsin Pet Therapy Program.
Being a volunteer in this program has brought so many more emotions than I ever could have anticipated. It is the most gratifying and humbling experience. Being able to spend time with kids and their parents in their hospital rooms and really seeing all they have going on is eye opening. I see the joy, calm and comfort it gives a child to snuggle with a dog for a few minutes and take their minds off whatever they are dealing with. I just never anticipated the joy it would bring me as well.
For Avry, now 7 and in first grade, growing up with a sister with special needs and who requires so much care and attention has been difficult. But Avry, my little spitfire, also has found joy in giving back to the organization that has supported Mikayla — and all of us — throughout her journey. Avry helps us organize a toy drive every year and looks forward to shopping for and delivering the toys to Children’s Wisconsin around the holidays. It is that volunteer spirit that has really strengthened our family and kept us strong for Mikayla.
Every donation makes a difference
Our family is honored to be one of many asked to share our story during the 2022 WKLH Miracle Marathon presented by Accunet Mortgage broadcasting live May 19-20. This is WKLH’s 24th year of hosting the radiothon, which has raised more than $27 million since it began.
Pledge your support: Make an online donation right now. Every dollar will help kids have a healthier and brighter future. It’s up to us to move that needle forward for our generation of kids and future ones. Everyone can help support this great organization, and every donation makes a difference.
Tune in to 96.5 WKLH, listen live on wklh.com or ask your smart speaker to play WKLH during Miracle Marathon to hear many incredible Children’s Wisconsin stories from families like ours. On behalf of our family, thank you.
This Miracle Moment brought to you by Kohl’s.