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25 Year All Stars: Meet Ariel

At 4 years old, Ariel is a social butterfly and a mama’s girl who is always ready for a tickle. When her mom, Ashley, simply puts one finger up to indicate tickles are coming, Ariel’s bursts of laughter and smiles are instantly infectious to everyone around her. Her older sister, Annabella, has also become a pro at entertaining Ariel with rounds of peek-a-boo and reading books.

Despite a number of health issues that have filled Ariel’s first years, this little girl is joyful and full of life – a testament to her strength and determination.

Respiratory troubles at birth

Ariel started her adventure quickly, aspirating at birth unbeknownst to her family and providers at the time. Although she was doing well following her birth, about 12 hours later health care professionals informed Ashley that Ariel was having trouble breathing.

20151010_161736_250“They said she had over 100 breaths per minute, so they called Children’s to transport her but they were unable to come due to fog,” remembered Ashley.

At the time, they were just over two hours north of the Twin Cities.

Finally, Ariel was flown to Fargo where she spent the next two weeks receiving care before being diagnosed with laryngomalacia, which doctors told Ashley should clear up in about 18 months. She also had a g-j tube placed after she had issues latching on to feed. But after being home for about a month and a half, it became clear that there were additional issues at hand and Ariel was sent to Minneapolis to see an ENT specialist.

A tracheal defect

20150909_073659_2502There, it was discovered that Ariel was born with a defect called complete tracheal rings, meaning her trachea was o-shaped rather than c-shaped and those rings didn’t grow along with her as she got older. At three months old, Ariel had surgery to improve her condition but was trached at 6 months and went into cardiac arrest at 7 months old.

“I was told she wasn’t going to live, but she ended up bleeding between the skin and skull of her head rather than into the brain, which is what saved her life,” said Ashley.

In April 2012, Ariel was ready to go home to their new location in Minneapolis, and PHS was along for the ride – providing nutrition services, respiratory therapy, and home care nursing.

Moving back home

After living in the Minneapolis area for the majority of Ariel’s first few years to be closer to the care Ashley knew and trusted for her daughter, their family was recently able to move back to their home further north to be closer to family and friends thanks to Ariel’s stable condition.

DSC_6371_250“We’re able to go to my grandparents’ farm, go on walks to the park, just be closer to family which is so important – our roots are here,” mentioned Ashley.

Respiratory therapy followed them north and continues to see Ariel every three months.

“It made it so much easier to transition back home without having to worry about finding another DME company,” said Ashley. “I know how to order through PHS, and they’re all so great all the time – having that reliable care stick with us was a huge relief.”

Big goals ahead

For now, Ashley looks forward to starting therapy that will encourage Ariel to eat orally – currently she can eat yogurt on occasion, but has difficulty with other foods. She also hopes Ariel will learn to talk.

DSC_6565_250“She just loves life – she’s always smiling,” said Ashley.

In July 2013, Ariel was decannulated but got re-trached in 2014 to find she had laryngeal stenosis. Decannulation will be a consideration in about 10 years, depending on what technology and research is available.

A girl who is always cheery despite having gone through so much in her few years, Ariel proves that she’s here with a purpose and brings light to everyone she meets. With a big sister to look up to and a family who will do whatever is needed to keep her with them at home, adventure awaits.

Originally published: November 4, 2015

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