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patient name: Avery

age: 10

condition: Down syndrome; conductive hearing loss

seen in: cardiology; audiology

providers: Michael Ralston, MD

Avery Abshear loves to read, make people laugh and cares about everyone. And, at just 10 years old, she’s not afraid to try anything. However, Avery today is vastly different than how she came into this world and for her mom, Rachel, Avery is the miracle she could have only wished for.

Avery has Down syndrome and was born 6 weeks premature on November 26, 2012. While her stay in a local hospital NICU was relatively short, the first year of her life would be a whirlwind.

Avery’s first came to Dayton Children’s when she was just 4 weeks old. What was supposed to be a routine first visit at the pediatrician’s office quickly turned into a 911 call because her body temperature and oxygen levels were low. The paramedics who responded transported Avery to Dayton Children’s Hospital where she stayed for the next week.

“There were a lot of ups and downs at first. However, every concern or questions I had, the Dayton Children’s team not only addressed it but they listened to us,” Rachel said. In fact, it was soon after that first visit, Rachel was asked to become part of Dayton Children’s Parent and Family Advisory Council, joining other families in sharing insight and feedback.

support during a big decision

For Avery, her little heart was her biggest medical concern and the family knew open heart surgery was imminent. Her initial stay at Dayton Children’s set into motion the plan for surgery to take place. A central member of Avery’s care team then – and now – has been her cardiologist, Dr. Michael Ralston.

At just 4 months old, Avery underwent heart surgery to repair the hole in her heart. The surgery – performed at another children’s hospital – was successful; however, Avery developed severe pulmonary hypertension and the medical team had difficulty regulating her heart rate and oxygen levels. The team there recommended Avery for a tracheostomy where a tube would be inserted into her throat to assist with breathing.

“We couldn’t wrap our heads around that being our only option. I was struggling and just didn’t feel right about the trach option, so I called and left a message for Dr. Ralston. He called me back, talked to her surgery team and assured me that we didn’t have to do the trach at this time. It wasn’t life or death. We were able to take her home with the option to schedule the procedure for a later date if it was necessary. He was the only person to look at the bigger picture. I call him our hero doctor.”

family centered care

Over the years, the Dayton Children’s audiology department has also become a key part of Avery’s care team. As a baby, Avery failed hearing tests and was diagnosed with conductive hearing loss – where her hearing can come and go depending on the amount of fluid in her ears. While hearing aids have helped significantly, she sees an audiologist regularly for check-ups.

“They are so great with her and to her little brother as well, including him in her appointments which is very sweet and appreciated. The team is wonderful in explaining and showing us what her hearing loss looks like, what the plan is as she ages, etc.,” Rachel said. “If Avery needs new hearing aids for her ears, the team includes her and has her pick the color. They go above to make sure they are there for her and us.”

becoming an ambassador

For Rachel, learning that Avery was selected as a Dayton Children’s ambassador was special and emotional. While Avery is overall healthy now, it’s been a journey navigating her health over the last decade.

“It’s an honor for Avery to represent a place that has been there for her. To be able to have comprehensive, responsive and proactive care right in our own community is something I am very thankful for,” Rachel said.



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