“Wow … I took care of you when you were just a baby,” he said, as his eyes began to mist with unshed tears. “You were so, so sick!” Fighting to keep his composure, the man continued, “You look fabulous.”
He then walked back into the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Batson Children’s Hospital, part of University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, Miss., to help other sick babies. It was the first time Hannah had been back to visit Batson’s NICU since she was a baby. She was born with cystic hygromas, which are abnormal growths caused by blockages in the lymphatic system that get larger over time. They recur mainly in her jaw and neck area.
“We almost lost her several times when she was in the NICU,” said Nicki Dunaway, Hannah’s mother. “She was here for the first five months of her life. There’s no doubt in my mind if we had been at any other hospital, she wouldn’t have made it.”
Since birth, Hannah has had 44 surgeries, most of them at Batson Children’s Hospital, to remove multiple tumors. Though the tumors are benign, they are often rather large.
“Hannah had to have major surgeries after she was born,” said Dr. Jeffery Carron, Hannah’s ear, nose and throat specialist at Batson. “She had a tracheostomy to help her breathe until she was 12 years old.”
Despite spending months in the hospital and commuting regularly from their home in Vicksburg, Miss., Hannah and her mother choose to look on the bright side.
“Coming here, they make you feel like you’re at home, right here in the hospital,” said Hannah. “The nurses and doctors are my friends. I was even a bridesmaid in one of their weddings.”
Patients like Hannah are why the Sanderson Farms Championship chooses to donate a majority of its proceeds to Friends of Children’s Hospital, benefitting children at Batson Children’s Hospital.
In 2014, the Sanderson Farms Championship donated a record $1.1 million to Friends of Children’s Hospital to support an expansion of UMMC’s pediatric programs and facilities, including a new tower to be located next to Batson Children’s Hospital. The Children’s Heart Center at Batson was the featured program during the 2013 and 2014 tournaments; in 2015, it is the neonatal ICU.
“We are the only Level IV NICU in Mississippi, and we have outgrown our space,” said Dr. Renate Savich, Director of UMMC’s Division of Newborn Medicine and NICU. “We have never turned a baby away, and we take care of them as long as they need us.”
According to Dr. Savich, the medical team in Batson’s NICU cares for approximately 100 babies in a space that was originally built to hold 30.
As part of the future expansion, a larger, state-of-the-art NICU will be housed inside the new children’s tower. The funds from this year’s Sanderson Farms Championship will help make that dream a reality.
“Something like the Sanderson Farms Championship is amazing because it’s people in Mississippi helping others in their own state,” said Dr. Savich. “Thanks to the Sanderson Farms Championship supporting Batson, these babies have a chance at life,” said Nicki. “I personally can’t say ‘thank you’ enough because I’ve seen it firsthand.”
All ticket proceeds, along with funds from several other events throughout the week of the Championship, go directly to Friends of Children’s Hospital. Century Club Charities, which hosts the Sanderson Farms Championship at The Country Club of Jackson, chose Friends as its beneficiary several years ago.
Friends of Children’s Hospital is a nonprofit organization created to benefit Batson Children’s Hospital.
“What the Sanderson Farms Championship is doing is amazing,” said Hannah. “These kids can now have a chance at life.”