For the Love of Abby
Media Contact: Mary Colliver
LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 16, 2010) −Abby Martin is a
darling five-year old who lives in Lexington with her parents, Farrah
and Michael Martin. Although she was diagnosed with CHARGE syndrome,
Abby is full of life and quite animated; very typical for a five-year
old. During their 20-week ultrasound before Abby was born, Farrah and
Michael Martin found out that Abby's heart was on the wrong side and
they were at high risk. That is when everything went topsy-turvy in
Immediately after she was born, at 36 weeks' gestation, Abby was transported to Kentucky Children’s Hospital
Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), where she began her series of
developmental surgeries. She immediately had heart and stomach
surgeries just to keep her alive. She had 25 surgeries within the first
two years of her life. When she was born, her esophagus, which normally
travels from mouth to stomach, traveled from her windpipe to an
unattached ending. This kept her from being able to eat normally and
required surgical reconstruction and a feeding tube.
CHARGE syndrome is a complex set of birth defects that occur early in
fetal development. Patients like Abby suffer from heart defects,
breathing problems, vision and hearing difficulties and delayed
physical and sometimes mental development, but it was not until Abby
was 40 days old that all of her conditions and needs were combined into
the diagnosis of CHARGE. Abby’s mobility has come a long way, and she
is proudly walking with some assistance. She does not eat by mouth, but
her parents expect that to happen. Abby also has the ability to see and
communicate with the help of glasses, hearing aids, and a developing
comprehension of sign language. Abby has been exclusively treated at
Kentucky Children’s Hospital for CHARGE Syndrome. The Martins say they
place a lot of trust in the doctors and nurses at Kentucky Children’s
“That’s how you make it through 25 surgeries,” says Michael Martin.
Anyone who knows the Martin family knows that they have overcome
numerous obstacles, some of which they were told were insurmountable.
Abby is more mobile than they ever expected. This young girl is an
intelligent and strong-willed little fighter. Her parents are very
driven as well. When asked how she feels about Kentucky Children's
Hospital, Farrah Martin says, “I want to thank you with all my heart.
You don’t know how much you mean to us that you were here for us. She’s
our little girl and we love her to death and she’s here because you
helped her, so we just want to thank you so much.”
Dr. Heinrich Werner, a pediatric critical care specialist, treated
Abby until his death in 2007. Werner was a former vice chair and
associate professor of pediatrics at the the UK College of Medicine and
was medical director of Kentucky Children's Hospital Division of
Pediatric Critical Care Medicine.
Many children suffer from one of the many struggles that Abby
tolerates daily, but CHARGE syndrome combines multiple disabilities
that hinder a small child’s day-to-day activities. This could put a
large strain on any family, but Farrah and Michael look at things in a
very positive light. With the help of Kentucky Children’s Hospital,
they are able to give Abby all the hope in the world.
It is through her piercing brown eyes that you can see the youth,
love and happiness that Abby truly encompasses. The aura surrounding
Abby and her family is amazing, and it is apparent that she has touched
everyone involved in her recovery and rehabilitation process including
Kentucky Children’s Hospital surgeons, nurses, doctors, therapists and
the entire development staff.
"Abby has a loveable, vibrant personality," said Aimee Baston,
manager of annual giving and Children’s Miracle Network at Kentucky
Children's Hospital. "Her precious smile radiates from her father’s
arms almost every time I see her. Although she cannot communicate
verbally, her expressions eloquently convey her thoughts making her
impossible to overlook. Her small-framed glasses and fashionable attire
sets off that infectious persona which enables 'Miss Abby' to be the
spotlight of any occasion."
Abby’s personality in and out of the hospital is one of joy. “Every
morning she wakes up happy unless she is sick,” says Michael Martin.
“When she’s not smiling we know something is wrong."
Abby is one to go with the flow. When the Martins leave her with a
sitter she never cries and is always waving bye. She encompasses
multiple strengths. She is a hardheaded kid. She has to be in order to
overcome all the obstacles she has endured.
The best characteristic is her happiness. She has no idea how
different she is compared to other children. She just walks right up —
with the assistance of parents, family or friends — and acts like any
other kid, except non-verbally. She has continued to learn sign
language, which enables her to communicate with her family and friends.
Her favorite signs are “movie", “Oh no!”, and “computer”. She is a
visual learner and cannot get enough of the TV or computer. Her
favorite characters right now are Mighty B and Wow Wow Wubbzy. When she
is not watching movies, she loves to explore and go for walks. She is
also developing a love of cooking.
The Martin family are huge Kentucky Children's Hospital fans. They
asked family and friends to give a gift to Kentucky Children's Hospital
for Abby’s first birthday, which resulted in $500 in donations.
Michael and Farrah support Kentucky Children’s Hospital in every way
they can. They speak powerfully about their experiences at the
hospital, the significance it holds in their family, and the need for
fund generation. They gladly make appearances on the hospital’s behalf
to tell their story and stress the importance of supporting Kentucky
Watch a Family Overcomes Odds, a video about Abby Martin.
Information about CHARGE Syndrome
CHARGE syndrome is a recognizable (genetic) pattern of birth defects
which occurs in about one in every 9,000-10,000 births worldwide. It is
an extremely complex syndrome, involving extensive medical and
physical difficulties that differ from child to child.
The vast majority of the time, there is no history of CHARGE syndrome
or any other similar conditions in the family. Babies with CHARGE
syndrome are often born with life-threatening birth defects, including
complex heart defects and breathing problems.
They spend many months in the hospital and undergo many surgeries and
other treatments. Swallowing and breathing problems make life
difficult even when they come home. Most have hearing loss, vision loss
and balance problems, which delay their development and communication.
All are likely to require medical and educational intervention for many years.