Last year, if you were to bring up Christmas around Ashlie, she would begin to cry. In the past, Christmas had been a celebratory time, filled with food, presents, and most of all, family. However, during 2013, celebrating Christmas was something Ashlie and her husband Brad didn’t even want to think about.
That’s because Christmas of 2013 would be different. This year, Christmas would be filled with medical tests, hospital beds and, of course, doctors.
Ashlie and Brad’s baby girl, Hadley, would spend her first ever Christmas battling cancer in the hospital. “Thinking about spending Christmas in the hospital with a sick child is so hard,” said Brad. “We made it as fun as we could, but as a parent, watching your daughter meet Santa for the first time while in an oncology room, it just breaks your heart.”
Hadley was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia when she was 6 months old. After celebrating her first Thanksgiving with her siblings Maddie (7) and Molly (5), Hadley’s demeanor changed. “Hadley wasn’t focusing, and she didn’t have control over her balance,” said Brad. “She was having trouble holding her head up, the next day, when she couldn’t even sit up, we brought her straight to the ER.”
A week later, the family learned that Hadley had cancer. “The diagnosis was massively overwhelming. You’re not sure what to think and your first fear is what’s going to happen to my 6-month-old daughter? What’s going to happen to my family? It was just completely saturating and overwhelming,” said Brad.
Ashlie felt the same way. “Our world literally came crashing down, right before our eyes. I’ve never felt so helpless. I’ve never been so absolutely terrified,” she said.
Despite the frightening diagnosis Brad and Ashlie sprang into action and made a plan to get Hadley the most excellent care possible. After two rounds of chemotherapy at the hospital in their hometown of Louisville, Hadley’s parents decided that she should transfer to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, 1.5 hours away. The Children’s Hospital turned into Hadley’s full-time residence for the next 5 months,where she underwent an additional round of chemo and eventually a marrow transplant.
Finding a matching donor for Hadley, was just one of the many challenges the family endured during those months in the hospital. Inspired to help families searching for a match, they held a registry drive in Louisville and friends and family held additional drives across the nation. Moved by Hadley’s sweet smile Brad and Ashlie’s passionate plea, people from their hometown lined up around the block to register. “We went through 1,300 swab kits in the first hour,” says Brad. “It
After months of searching, the family’s prayers were answered. Hadley was matched with an unrelated marrow donor—a selfless young man in his 20’s. “It was everything. Knowing that she had a match gave us hope to keep going,” said Brad.was amazing to know that so many people cared.”
This April, Hadley received her life-saving transplant. Forever grateful, they refer to her selfless marrow donor as ‘Hadley’s angel.’ “And that’s truly what he is,” said Brad, “I’ve never been more thankful for anything in my entire life. His gift was truly a blessing.”
While Hadley’s road to recovery is not yet over, Brad and Ashlie are hopeful that Christmas of 2014 will once again be filled with family gatherings and joy. “Our only wish is that we get to be together and celebrate as a family,” said Brad.
So many other families have the same wish—to have more time with their loved ones. More time to make memories over thanksgiving dinner and Christmas stockings. You can give this gift. “There is no easier way to make a difference,” said Brad, “A donation of $100 to add someone to the registry could save a life. A simple cheek swab could give someone their future.”
Help Hadley’s Family pay-it-forward:
Brand and Ashlie have raised nearly $15,000 for families in desperate need of a marrow transplant. “Thousands of parents every year go through what we went through, and they need help. Be The Match has been with us throughout Hadley’s entire ordeal — we probably wouldn’t have her without them — and we want to help the next set of parents in need.” A donation of $100 to add someone to the registry could save a life. Give now!