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#MiracleMonday – Meet Thea!

When new parents, Trisha and Jeffrey Danze welcomed their daughter, Thea on June 23, 2007, the couple was overjoyed at an uneventful pregnancy and birth.  Little Thea had all ten fingers and ten toes, the makings of a perfect baby, and after a short stay at the hospital, the newborn was taken to the Danze home in Robbinsville, New Jersey.

She continued to thrive until the fragile age of four months old, when Trisha and Jeffrey couldn’t help notice their daughter at an abrupt standstill–exhibiting some strange, and quite alarming, behaviors.  She was often lethargic, and spent a great deal of her time sleeping.  On the rare occasions she was awake the four month old was either vomiting or screaming.  Her eyes would also often turn, which neither of the new parents had any experience with and found the sight of, as anyone would, very unsettling.  At first, they were told by their pediatrician that their newborn would “outgrow” the episodes of lethargy, eye movements and vomiting that so often plagued her.   However, when the issues continued, her pediatrician suggested investigating the possible cause for her recent and rapid decline.

Thea was sent to the hospital for a CT scan, where it was discovered the four month olds’ symptoms were caused by hydrocephalus, commonly referred to as “fluid on the brain.” The test also revealed a mass in her brain tissue.  At six months old, Trisha and Jeffrey Danze waited anxiously while their daughter was transferred to another hospital where she would have surgery to remove some of the tumor that had invaded her brain.

The surgery left Trisha and Jeffrey’s little girl tired and weak, but, being the pint-sized fighter that she was, Thea was hanging on.  Within days of her agonizing ordeal, the family’s faith was tested again.  The parents watched in recovery helplessly as Thea, healing from such an invasive surgery, had a stroke.  The stroke caused Thea many more significant delays in her development and left her in need of compassion, expertise and services of a whole different caliber; services the family knew were only accessible at Children’s Specialized Hospital in Hamilton, New Jersey.  After being discharged from the hospital after her brain surgery, Thea officially began her journey of recovery and healing with Children’s Specialized Hospital.

It became clear to doctors and therapists that Thea needed a lot of care and guidance to make up for the time the stroke had taken away.  That setback had only added to the list of delays that the now six, almost seven month old patient was experiencing, and a combination of speech occupational and physical therapies would give Thea a solid foundation to get her back on track.

As regimens of therapy began, the parents couldn’t help but beam with pride at everything Thea accomplished, many things other parents and children take for granted.

Thea’s physical therapist, Sandra Nussenfeld has been with the now six year old since she was a toddler, and has seen her blossom.

“Thea has been a real trooper through the years,” said Nussenfeld.   “Activities have always been geared toward making movement fun while challenging her balance and increasing her strength. Walking activities to step over obstacles, climbing skills over obstacles, or climbing stairs to reach toys or to mount the therapy slide were all used as a means to increase her strength and balance while having fun,” she explained.

Therapy had obvious improvements for Thea which her parents noticed right away.

“We were thrilled to see Thea making progress and meeting her milestones,” said her mom, Trisha.  “Because of therapy she learned to walk and climb stairs.”

Trisha and Jeffrey continue to watch their daughter grow and flourish; the days of her early childhood long behind them until a year ago when Thea is five and the family is taken on another roller coaster.  When Thea was diagnosed with the hydrocephalus, a simple procedure to put a shunt in her brain to remove the fluid was needed to be done.  The shunts had to be replaced every six months, and every procedure had gone as planned—until this one.  Last year she went in for the routine shunt removal procedure, and a complication with removal irritated the part of Thea’s brain that controlled her entire left side.

“She woke up from surgery and couldn’t move.  It was very scary,” Trisha said.

Children’s Specialized got her to walk once, and after the setback, her parents and hospital staff watched her with determination and vigor all over again.

Thea’s personality is definitely larger, brighter and louder than her six years of life would like to argue.  For a child who has been through so much, it is truly amazing the smile that lights up a room and laugh that is so infectious.  Thea is an outgoing socialite who not surprisingly loves to make people laugh.

Nussenfeld added, “Emotional ups and downs have been part of her overall condition, but she has always been able to come around to engage in activities and is motivated to do well. One of the things I enjoy most is her ability to create a song for almost anything we do!”

Trisha and Jeffrey’s hopes for Thea’s future are bright.

“We hope to avoid setbacks with her…at least minimize them along the way.  My husband and I want Thea to have as close to a normal life as possible,” Trisha said.

With the continued help of Children’s Specialized Hospital, the second family that has become Thea’s doctors’ and therapists, and Thea’s positive attitude, the Danzes know their daughter will continue to be their little fighter for years to come.