Our 2019 Children’s Miracle Network Hospital Hero
A mother’s love shows the world the true meaning of beauty
Before Abigail Fisher was born, her mother was faced with a difficult decision. Christina didn’t have the resources to care for another child, so she made the heartbreaking choice to place her baby up for adoption in hopes of giving her a better life. But when Abigail came into the world on January 2016, her adoptive parents changed their minds. Diagnosed with the rare Treacher Collins syndrome – which, along with other medical complications, made her face asymmetrical – Abigail looked different from the other newborns.
To her mother, though, she was always beautiful. Christina decided she would raise her little girl herself.
“Even when Abigail was in pain, she smiled and laughed through it,” her mother shares. “She has great compassion for others. If she sees that someone seems sad, she will touch their hand and ask, ‘Are you okay?’” For this and many other reasons, Abigail has been named the Children’s Miracle Network Hospital Hero for 2019.
Described by her mother as strong, happy and playful, the two-year-old loves to color and sing – especially the ABCs and “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” Christina is determined to give her a normal childhood, despite her differences.
“Abigail doesn’t recognize that anything is wrong with her,” her mother says. “I tell her every day how beautiful she is.”Her siblings agree. Abigail’s older sister stayed with her in the hospital for five weeks following her birth, missing more than a month of her senior year of high school. What she wouldn’t have missed for the world was being there for the little girl she loves so much.
The family was surprised at just how much the doctors and nurses love Abigail, too – especially Gulf Coast Cleft and Craniofacial Team Medical Director. Dr. Aaron Wallender, whom Christina calls “a godsend.”At Abigail’s bedside from the moment she was born, Dr. Wallender says the little girl and her mother are an inspiration to his entire team.
“Their story of hardship and endurance through such difficult circumstances challenge us to serve and love at a higher level,” he shares. “We are so blessed to experience life with them and look forward to the amazing effect their lives are going to have on this world.” She inspires her mom, too.
“Abigail has been a blessing since I had her,” Christina says. “I wouldn’t know what to do without her now. She keeps me going when I don’t want to go anymore.” It’s just who she is. Abigail has a way of making everybody smile. She draws people in with her smart and sassy personality – and her walk, swinging her hips like she’s queen of the world. (She even dresses the part, decked out in princess clothes.)
“No matter what mood you’re in, she’ll put you in a good one,” her mom shares.
Although her difficult pregnancy and eventual preeclampsia brought Christina to the Studer Family Children’s Hospital, she believes it all happened for a bigger reason. (And that God has a great sense of humor.)
“After her adoptive parents left, there was no giving her up,” Christina recalls. “She became my angel, not theirs.”
In the Level 2 NICU for five weeks, Abigail battled a number of challenges in the first days of life. Born with no soft palette, it was difficult for her to eat. A speech therapist arrived to help the family with a special Haberman bottle designed to facilitate sucking. Christina’s oldest daughter took photos of Abigail to her Mom when she couldn’t be with her after the birth. Friends helped get everything ready for the baby to come home – purchasing diapers, clothes, bottles and a bassinet.
“In my friends, I have found strength,” she shares. “In my oldest daughter, I have found strength.” Certainly, Abigail makes it easy to carry on – a hero to her family and to a community that has rallied around her. Christina says the doctors and nurses at the Children’s Hospital aren’t your everyday team. They have gone above and beyond, consulting her before every procedure.
She looks forward to the installation of the Children’s Hospital’s new, state-of-the-art pediatric CT scanner. Abigail was only a few months old when she underwent scans before her procedures, requiring sedation every time. It’s a harrowing experience for the child and the parent – one that won’t be necessary with the arrival of the new equipment.
Dr. Wallender prayed with Christina before each and every surgery, holding the baby’s bracelet in his pocket during the operations and giving it back to her in recovery. “Having Sacred Heart right here in town made it easier,” Christina says. “But I don’t care if I had to drive 100 miles. She wouldn’t have gotten the care she did anywhere else.”
Every team member made sure Abigail was happy and her mother was supported. When it was time to leave the hospital, they gave the family everything they needed. And just when the Fishers thought they couldn’t get any luckier, a Go Fund Me account was launched on Abigail’s behalf. From there, Christina says, the story made the rounds on Facebook and in the news.
During a trip from Florida to Louisiana, Christina walked into a café with Abigail, and was surprised when the cashier recognized her. It turned out she had been planning to give up a baby of her own, but once she heard Abigail’s story, she decided to keep her. Christina’s wish for Abigail is that she will grow up in a world that will accept her differences and see her for the strong and beautiful girl she is – a hero whose story has the power to change lives.