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2015-16 Heroes

2016-17 Children's Miracle Network Hospitals® Heroes

At Children's Miracle Network Hospitals®, a service of Gundersen Medical Foundation, every child served has a story of courage and perseverance. Five of these incredible kids have shared their stories with us. Read their amazing life-affirming stories below.

In many ways they are every bit as brave and resilient as the most daring superhero. Please join us and make a gift to support the future of our heroes. Thank you for helping make miracles happen.

The Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Hero program is presented by 7 Rivers Region Chapter of Credit Unions and Oral Surgery Clinic of La Crosse.

Jesse Plowman

Jesse Plowman

Hometown: Tomah, Wis.
Diagnosis: Traumatic Brain Injury

When Jesse Plowman was just a few months old, he was violently shaken resulting in a life-altering traumatic brain injury (TBI). A bright spot in Jesse's life has been his adoptive family, the Plowman's. They have fought for, cared for, cried with and loved Jesse since that fateful day.

Jesse has many developmental delays because of the TBI. At 6 months old, he started having difficult-to-control seizures many times a day. He has been hospitalized often with health problems; some nearly fatal.

"One hospital stay lasted three months, leaving Jesse so weak it erased nearly all the progress he had made. He could no longer crawl, sit up or even lift his head. His immune system was really low. They told us he may be coming home to die, but he's a fighter who had defied death too many times. We weren't ready to give up," says Robin. "For the next year I only left the house with him to go to doctor appointments. Slowly he started to gain strength; every little milestone was a miracle."

CMN Hospitals has been there along the way supplying specialized equipment to support Jesse's development. These adaptive items include an in-home jungle gym, wheelchair umbrella, specialized car seat and tricycle. CMN Hospitals also provided support for an iPad that helps Jesse with his vison and learning development.

The Plowman's are grateful: "Our family whole heartily supports CMN Hospitals. It's great to find an organization that helps so many families and also keeps donations in the community."

Jesse will be going to school full-time in the fall. He has gained so much and has even started talking. Robin says, "Our family has been blessed by this little boy. His smile is contagious, he gives great bear hugs and he is a heart stealer!"

Mason Rotering

Mason Rotering

Hometown: Trempealeau, Wis.
Diagnosis: Down Syndrome, Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

Shortly after Mason Rotering was born in 2010, he was diagnosed with Down syndrome. "This diagnosis was a surprise, but not a major hurdle. It just meant more patience and time to understand his needs," remembers his father, Kevin.

As is sometimes the case with Down syndrome, Mason had low muscle tone that required braces to help train his muscles and make walking easier. But once Mason learned to walk, there was no stopping him.

Then when Mason was just 3 years old, "we heard the words no parent wants to hear," recall Danielle (Danie) and Kevin. "On Dec. 22, we learned Mason had cancer. He received his first treatment the day after Christmas. I went from working overtime to ensure my children had a great Christmas, to hoping Mason would live to see his next Christmas," Kevin says.

Over the next 26 months, Mason was hospitalized several times. "After thousands of pills; hundreds of port accesses, clinic visits and IVs; 30 spinal taps and too many 1 a.m. emergency room visits to count, we are proud to say Mason is now cancer free," says a relieved Danie.

"CMN Hospitals has been there, offering us help. We might turn it down when Mason was doing great, but other times we accepted their generosity during longer hospitals stays to ensure we could spend every day with him," explains Kevin.

They received meal vouchers during Mason's hospital stays and daylong clinic appointments. Gas vouchers helped with their frequent trips to Gundersen from their home in Trempealeau,—a 45-mile round trip.

"Recently, CMN Hospitals helped Mason get an iPad for his speech and learning development," explains Danie. "The iPad helps him visually learn and hear the different sounds of words and letters. Playing learning games has helped him learn his colors, letters and how to write his name."

Danie says, "It takes a village to raise a child and having CMN Hospitals be part of our village has been a lifesaver. That's why we want to pay it forward and help other families."

Willa Krase

Willa Krase

Hometown: Winona, Minn.
Diagnosis: Type 1 Diabetes

It was Halloween 2013 and 9-year-old Willa Krase of Winona, Minn., was looking forward to trick-or-treating as a mummy. But the day, as it turned out, held something far scarier for Willa and her family.

"For weeks Willa had been cranky, exhausted and extremely hungry and thirsty. We thought she was having a growth spurt and early teenager attitude," recall her parents, Jill and Ethan Krase. "Eventually we knew something was wrong and took Willa to our pediatrician."

Jill continues, "The doctor said she would call the next day with test results, but 10 minutes after leaving, our phone rang. The doctor said to come right back."

The news they got changed everything. With blood sugar levels more than twice the normal level, Willa was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. They were sent directly to Gundersen Health System in La Crosse, where Willa remained hospitalized for four days.

"Willa thought that after the first insulin shot she was cured. She didn't understand at first that she'd need insulin for the rest of her life," recount her parents. "But after she got out of the hospital, Willa insisted on telling her class at school what was going on and everything she knew about diabetes. It was very brave of her."

They eventually adjusted to the demands of a disease that requires much attention. Willa, now 12 years old, manages her diabetes, needing little help from her parents.

For three years, Children's Miracle Network Hospitals has provided support for Willa to attend diabetes camp. "It's the only sleep-away camp Willa could safely attend and there she learns new self-care skills. At camp she can do all the things other kids do without being too distracted by diabetes," Jill explains. "Without help from CMN Hospitals, we'd have to cut corners to pay all the fees ourselves."

The Krases say, "Having children with serious chronic diseases is stressful, especially when the diseases need to be managed every day with no breaks…ever. Having CMN Hospitals reach out with help is very comforting and uplifting."

Iris Abbott

Iris Abbott

Hometown: Caledonia, Minn.
Diagnosis: Crohn's Disease, Hereditary Spherocytosis

For much of her young life, Iris Abbott has been suffering from Crohn's disease, an inflammatory disease of her digestive tract. Iris was also born with hereditary spherocytosis (HS), a blood disorder that causes low hemoglobin, anemia, jaundice and an enlarged spleen. These complicated illnesses led to severe chronic symptoms affecting many functions of Iris's body.

Iris spent many years on different medications, following a strict diet, and taking supplements to manage the symptoms. However, it was during her early teenage years when "life became very interesting," recall Iris's parents, Celeste and Russell.

"Iris could not gain weight, was not approaching puberty, and could not stay hydrated. Between January 2014 and May 2015 Iris was hospitalized ten times, mainly due to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances," they add.

With both conditions inflicting havoc on Iris's body, in 2015 they made a bold decision. Iris's colon was removed and a feeding tube put in to her stomach so she can get the nutrients her body desperately needed. While a drastic move, her mother reports, Iris now has gained weight and grown more than three inches.

During her many hospital stays, Children's Miracle Network Hospitals helped Iris's family with gas cards for their frequent trips to Gundersen from their Caledonia, Minn., home. They also received meal vouchers. "It is stressful to be away from home and with a child in the hospital. Having CMN Hospitals staff listen, encourage and help is priceless," says Celeste.

"The best thing is Iris is now able to participate in numerous activities which where impossible before because she was too sick. She has not missed any events due to illness or hospitalization since the surgery," Celeste says.

Addison Tarrence

Addison Tarrence

Hometown: La Crescent, Minn.
Diagnosis: Spinal Muscular Atrophy

Nine-year old, Addison Tarrence was born a healthy baby girl, hitting all of her early milestones – rolling over, sitting up, standing and walking. It wasn't until she was 18 months old that her parents, Kara and Josh, started noticing some unusual things.

"She began randomly falling to the ground," recalls Kara, "there was no warning of when her legs were going to give out."

Just a few months before her third birthday, blood tests confirmed that Addison had spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), a genetic disease that causes muscle wasting among other health issues.

"The good news was that Addison has type III," her parents explain. "Most diagnosed with type III live a normal life span. Their disease does progress, just usually at a much slower pace."

Addison was 8 years old when she became fully dependent on her wheelchair. Now a 4th grader, she is active in adaptive recreation activities including swimming, downhill skiing, water skiing and her favorite—horse therapy.

"CMN Hospitals has helped cover part of the cost of her horse therapy for the past three years. Without their help, she might not be able to participate due to the cost," says Kara. "Horse therapy is very good for her body and keeps her as active as possible."

Kara adds, "This is not the life we had planned. Some days are very hard and the thought of what the future holds weighs very heavy on our hearts. But then there are days better than I could have ever imagined. Addison is a fighter in her own quiet, quirky way. We are not giving her hope, she is giving it to us."

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