SPOKANE, Wash. - No parent ever thinks they'll end up there. But, when they walk through the doors at Sacred Heart Children's Hospital, they instantly become part of a family. For the Mathis family from Moses Lake, their home away from home is more important now than ever.
Galen and Lacey's youngest daughter is one of those kids whose smile lights up a room. Galen said if she was born first, they'd have a dozen more.
"Abby's a wonderful little three year old," Galen said. "Super happy all the time. Wakes up happy, goes to bed happy."
But, the little girl with the million watt smile wakes up hurting quite a bit, too.
"My legs hurt," Abby explained in a squeaky little voice. "The pain makes me fall down."
That pain started last fall. Her parents thought it was just a phase. Maybe some growing pains. But, their concerns grew when they noticed her energy zapped as well. On November 10, they decided they needed to get her checked out.
"She had some bruising on her face and her head," Galen remembered. "She just didn't have the energy that she had before."
The family recently moved from the Mead area to Moses Lake, but didn't change pediatricians. So, Lacey took her little girl into the clinic and asked for a blood test. They came back with a manilla envelope, handed it to Lacey and told her she needed to get to Spokane as quickly as possible. All she knew was that the test results were abnormal.
Imagine that 100-mile drive. With the envelope by her side and her daughter in the back seat, Lacey leaned on her faith.
"I did a kind of silent prayer," said Lacey. "[I said] 'Okay, God. Just forward. I'm going forward.'"
Forward brought them to Sacred Heart Children's Hospital, where they learned the diagnosis that would change all of them.
Abby had leukemia. They needed to prepare for a long road ahead. That very night, they learned they would travel that road alone.
"They had a child life specialist waiting there for us," said Lacey. "It was just amazing how much Galen and I were able to focus without it becoming too much."
A doctor sat with them for two hours that night, explaining what was to come. The family left the treatments to the doctors; they quickly found out about all the other resources at their fingertips. Things like a place for Abby to play and a crew to come in and cut Abby's thinning hair before it fell out.
"I felt like she had the whole staff cheering for her and helping her," said Galen. "One of the maintenance guys was bringing her goodies. It was pretty neat."
For Galen, the experience was surreal. He works for Walmart, a company very active with Sacred Heart and Children's Miracle Networks. He estimates he'd taken 15 tours of the facility over the years.
"In the back of my mind, I thought it was really cool," he said. "I felt very bad for these kids, but [I thought] it will never be my kid."
Now that it is their kid, the Mathis family couldn't be more grateful. Even though they live 100 miles away, they enjoy their time with Abby at Sacred Heart Children's Hospital. She loves her doctor and the specialists here make those tough days a little easier.
As for Abby, she's progressing through her treatment and the prognosis is good. She's thinking ahead to her fourth birthday party next month. She's excited about the Moana-themed pool party, the pizza and the chocolate cake.
She also has something every soon-to-be four year old should have: hope.
Excitedly, she said, "The medicine is gonna work!"
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