Ascension Sacred Heart Foundation is pleased to announce that Katie Mitchell has been chosen as our 2022 Children’s Miracle Network® (CMN) Champion, advocating for member hospital Studer Family Children’s Hospital at Ascension Sacred Heart. CMN is a non-profit organization dedicated to raising funds and community support for 170 children’s hospitals throughout North America. Each year, CMN hospitals are invited to submit the story of a child who has been treated in their facility. This child will serve as a CMN ambassador and face of the hospital for partner campaigns and various events that generate donations. One hundred percent of the donations stays in our local area to support pediatric treatments and healthcare services, medical equipment and philanthropic care.
As Champion, Katie’s role will be to raise awareness of pediatric cancer and campaign for the charitable needs of kids treated at Studer Family Children’s Hospital at Ascension Sacred Heart. Herself a cancer survivor, Katie is committed to encouraging the financial support needed to ensure that all children, regardless of their parent’s ability to pay, receive the same miraculous care she was blessed with.
Katie’s journey began in 2013, when she was taken to a hospital closest to her home after exhibiting troubling signs of illness and then fainting. The emergency room doctor entered with her blood work results and a troubled look on his face. He said, “I am so glad you guys came in here. Your daughter is in need of a blood transfusion. We need to transfer her to Studer Family Children’s Hospital.”
There, Katie was admitted to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), where an oncologist confirmed the diagnosis of cancer. The family was shocked to learn she would require two-and-a-half years of treatment.
Following a month of inpatient chemotherapy, Katie went into remission and was able to return home. But six months later, she was back at the Studer Family Children’s Hospital when her liver shut down due to one of the chemotherapies.
Her mother Jamie describes the experience the family underwent during Katie’s battle as “eye opening now that we have gone through it and have seen what childhood cancer really is. I thought you got some chemo, lost your hair and you were good to go.” She feels that most people lack awareness, mostly because it is a subject that no one wants to talk about.
The years of treatment also had a huge impact on the entire family. There was sadness, fear, and lots of tears. The effect on Katie’s little body was scary and severe. She lost half her weight, her ability to walk and her voice; at times, she literally looked like a skeleton.
Jamie felt she had done something to cause her daughter’s illness, that she had somehow been irresponsible. But after talking with other parents, she learned that her feelings of guilt were a common reaction.
Katie’s brother Ryan was emotionally affected as well. When he was in first grade, his class had a project about the growth of flowers. Each student was asked, “What makes you bloom and what makes you wilt?” Ryan answered, “I wilt when Katie is in the hospital. I bloom when Katie gets better.” Other kids wrote, “I bloom when I get a Playstation. I wilt when I have to pick up my room.”
Throughout Katie’s inpatient stay, the family continued to be grateful that treatment was available locally and amazed at the depth of compassionate care given their daughter. The doctors would explain the treatment and prepare the family for side effects. The nurses, who went above and beyond to spend time with Katie, would even play “tea party” with their tiny patient. “They were there late at night and really took care of us. They became family,” Jamie says. “I credit Sacred Heart with saving Katie’s life.”
Today, Katie is cancer free. She still struggles with what she went through physically and mentally; the past few years were marked by nightmares and a fear of recurrence. But, with a most difficult journey behind her, she is celebrating life. At the age of ten, she is in the fifth grade and her days are filled with the enjoyment of singing, dancing and playing soccer. Her immediate future also will include activities as a CMN Champion, helping to raise funds for the Studer Family Children’s Hospital at Ascension Sacred Heart.
A variety of national corporations give to the Children's Miracle Network; in turn, their local businesses become CMN Hospital Partners, dedicated to generating donations in the community, often one dollar at a time. Ace Hardware, CEFCO, Credit Union for Kids, Dairy Queen, Direct Energy, IHOP, Kiwanis International, Log- A- Load, Love’s Travel Stops, Panda Express, Publix, RE/MAX, Sam’s Club, United Network of America, and Walmart serve as Studer Family Children’s Hospital partners. Ascension Sacred Heart Foundation extends its gratitude to these partner corporations, associates and customers for their support.
CMN also offers a variety of programs throughout the year that encourage people to connect with and help sustain the Children’s Hospital. Current programs include University of West Florida Dance Marathon, Extra Life and Radiothon.