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‘Miracle’ child galloping into recovery

Guests checking in Saturday morning at the Morgantown Marriott at Waterfront Place just had to look over, as they jockeyed their suitcases and garment bags to the front desk for their stay.

Because honestly: How many times have you seen a kid and a horse trotting through the main lobby like that?

Given some of the things that have transpired in hotels over the years – what with your room-demolishing rock stars and all that – the a.m. occurrence at this one probably wasn’t a “miracle,” by definition.

However, Addison Schrock (the kid in the equation), most certainly is.

Addison, who is 10, is the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Champion Child for the state of West Virginia this year.

WVU Medicine Children’s is part of that network, and the hospital successfully treated Addison for a scary neurological condition that could have killed her.

She did, in fact, go into cardiac arrest in a hallway at the hospital after her parents finally got her to Morgantown – following their daughter’s sudden, sharp medical decline during a vacation three years go.

Not that Christa and Marcus wanted to go to the beach anyway.

They did it for Addison. They did it because of a misdiagnosis.

‘We’re going to the ER’

Addison, a normally outgoing kid who likes horses (her family has three) and math (kid has a head for numbers) had been dealing with bouts of “night terrors” – those episodes of screaming, flailing and even getting out of bed and running while still asleep.

Doctors at first said it was maybe stress or anxiety.

If Addison was shouldering a more-than kid-sized share of angst for whatever reason, they said, a family road trip her parents had been wanting to cancel might be the best medicine.

She could build sandcastles and romp in the waves lapping the shore, the thoughts went.

It was hardly a respite.

Addison began going into what appeared to be seizures.  

Christa, who has both a medical background and a mother’s intuition, knew it wasn’t stress.

Three years later, the eyes of that mom will still well up at the memory.

“I said, ‘We’re going to the ER.’”

An agitated, ill child and an ever-fearful mom waited 13 hours at the hospital in the town they were staying to be seen – only to be told they needed to go home.

“They said, ‘We’re not equipped for this,’” Christa recounted – whatever “this” was.

By then, Addison who had already been refusing food, stopped drinking also.

No water, no juice, no soda, no anything.

Her pupils were dilated, and her breathing was shallow.

She dropped 12 pounds in four days and she was a smallish kid to begin with.  

Given COVID considerations of the time, it would have another four days or better to secure an ambulance – and the family’s medical insurance wouldn’t cover a medical helicopter, and a six-figure price tag, for the trip back home.

Christa has family member who is a physician, and he was finally able to secure a contact at WVU Medicine Children’s.

“We’ll be ready,” doctors here said, as the family packed up what they had just unpacked.

The team, in fact, was ready.

Addison did code, as said, but the team was right there, Christa remembered.

They were also right there with a definitive diagnosis. Finally.

Cortical dysplasia.

Tough affliction – tougher kid

Cortical dysplasia is what occurs when the top layer of the brain doesn’t form properly.

The resulting lesions were putting Addison through all the above. She had been walking around with it all along.

The surgery took around six hours. Addison emerged.

She’s now on a couple of maintenance medications, her mom said.

“Maintenance ,” is the operative word.

“Addison is maintaining. She’s a courageous kid. She’s never cried once, during any of this.”

There was also something else.

“This place,” Christa said, referring to WVU Medicine Children’s, “means everything.”

‘Maybe I can do both’

Dr. David Adelson, a pediatric neurosurgeon at the hospital, said it’s a place where patients and their families can go for effective treatment and true answers: Here’s what it is – here’s why it is.

The neurosurgeon mapped it out in a promotional video spotlighting Addison and her family.

“We can also understand the dysfunction of the brain,” he said, “and understand where these abnormal networks are coming from.”

Where the family was coming from Saturday was their home in rural Westmoreland County, Pa.

They motored to Morgantown so Addison could make her Miracle Child debut later that evening at the 2024 edition of the WVU Medicine Children’s Gala, an annual fundraiser for the hospital.

Mario Lopez, the television star, hosted the proceedings, which were also at the Marriott. Last year’s event brought in $1.3 million for the hospital.

When Marriott general manager Bert Haifley found out Addison was an equine enthusiast – he jumped out of the gate like an odds-on thoroughbred at the Preakness.

“I said, ‘We gotta this kid a horse.’”

A call to On Eagles’ Wings Therapeutic Horsemanship Center near Fairmont, sealed it.

Carol Petitto, the center’s founder and director, came calling with a star attraction: Stormy, the Miniature horse – that’s “miniature,” with a capital M – who makes the rounds at nursing facilities and elementary schools.

The tiny animals help Autism patients and soldiers returning from war zones make big strides in their recoveries.

Addison patted Stormy’s muzzle, and with the horse on lead, made that little gallop in the lobby as she paced alongside.

“I’m liking Stormy a lot,” the Miracle child said.

Don’t look for her to get too far from horses when she grows up.

“I’d like to work with horses in therapy,” she said.

“Or, be a nurse. Maybe I can do both.”