NEW CASTLE —
Emma Hanaway turned 10 last week.
It was a birthday that almost didn’t happen.
A month ago, health professionals couldn’t assure Michael and Cheryl Hanaway that their only child would make it.
Back in mid-January, the New Castle Christian Academy student was a typical fourth grader enjoying a typical afternoon when something went terribly wrong.
“Overnight, she went from being perfectly healthy to fighting for her life,” Cheryl said. “She came home from playing and started vomiting and complaining of knee pain.”
They figured it must be the flu.
It wasn’t until the next day when Emma was still in excruciating pain and unable to walk that they knew this was no flu.
“It was so traumatic,” Cheryl said. “I never believed a child could be so sick and that it could happen so fast.”
It wasn’t an easy diagnosis. Even some doctors were fooled.
Dr. Denise Beard was the first to realize Emma was going into septic shock.
Sepsis, according to the Mayo Clinic, “is a potentially life-threatening complication of an infection. Sepsis occurs when chemicals released into the bloodstream to fight the infection trigger inflammation throughout the body. This inflammation can trigger a cascade of changes that can damage multiple organ systems, causing them to fail. If sepsis progresses to septic shock, blood pressure drops dramatically, which may lead to death.”
Beard advised that Emma be taken immediately to Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh. Eleven hours later, the little girl was in intensive care, fighting for her life.
Doctors determined that there was a blood clot in her knee, along with osteomyelitis — an infection of the bone and bone marrow. It is thought that inflammation resulting from sepsis caused tiny blood clots to form, blocking oxygen and nutrients from reaching her vital organs.
The infection started in her femur, and doctors had to drill into the bone to drain it. There was a second surgery, followed by four blood transfusions.
Cheryl, a licensed mental health therapist, was alarmed by what she observed. “Emma was hallucinating,” she said.
Cheryl took family medical leave to be able to stay with Emma. “I promised her I would not leave the hospital until she did,” she said. “The first two weeks, I didn’t sleep at all.”
Emma, who stands just over four feet and weighs 52 pounds, lost 10 pounds during her ordeal. She had a feeding tube and didn’t eat for 13 days before the tide turned.
Emma vowed to be home by Valentine’s Day, but there were still no guarantees.
“The school and our church were phenomenal in their support,” Cheryl said. “If not for our faith, I don’t know how we would have made it.”
When Emma got depressed at the hospital, a gift or card would arrive and lift her spirits. Those gifts and cards, many coming from the Hanaways’ church family at New Life Baptist, arrived daily. She also got a hospital visit from her best friend, Hayley, who lives next door. “That was really nice,” Emma said.
Cheryl said teachers and students at New Castle Christian Academy were a godsend. Katie Tomko and Mrs. Hilton have been at the forefront. On her own time, Tomko comes to the Hanaway house three times a week to tutor Emma.
Students made a chain of paper hearts and each one wrote a message to her. Students also staged a Pajama Rama fundraiser and posed as letters on the gym floor with a message that read “We (heart) U Emma.”
Returning home on the day she predicted, Emma was greeted at her front door by teachers with balloons, stuffed animals and a huge Valentine box filled with Valentines from all the students.
She just missed being home. “It was all pretty scary,” Emma said.
She recently celebrated her birthday with a few close friends and a big cake.
During of the ordeal, the family learned that Emma was born with a blood disorder and that she must continue on blood thinning injections because of a clotting disorder.
But it’s something they can deal with said Cheryl.
“We’re just so thankful to have our daughter back.”
NEW CASTLE —
Emma Hanaway turned 10 last week.
Neshannock updates student handbooks
Neshannock school district student handbooks are being updated.
- Neshannock OKs raises, personnel moves
Board, staff bids farewell to superintendent
Dr. Mary Todora will retire Monday from the Neshannock school district. “I remember eight and a half years ago when Dr. John Dietz (then-board president) called to tell me I got the job. I was thrilled,” Todora said at her final board meeting.
National title? Neshannock grad hopes to become America’s Distinguished Young Woman
New Castle will be represented next week in the 57th Distinguished Young Women National Finals. Miranda Nichols, who last year was crowned 2014 Lawrence County and Pennsylvania Distinguished Young Woman, left Sunday for Mobile, Ala., where a national winner will be determined June 26-28 at the Mobile Civic Center.
‘Great Honor’: Sansone competing in premier Cape Cod league
John Sansone will play with the best of the best this summer.The Neshannock High graduate and current Florida State University starting second baseman will play for the Brewster Whitecaps during the 44-game Cape Cod Baseball League regular season, which ends Aug. 3.
A reason to ‘Believe’: Autumn Paolini’s personal battle delivers inspiration to teammates
Autumn Paolini has never been one to complain. But over a month’s span earlier this spring, the brown-haired, blue-eyed Neshannock Township teenager had migraine-like headaches and frequently went to her parents Jim and Cheryl for help.
Photo Gallery, Story: Neshannock girls softball team wins second straight WPIAL title
The Neshannock High softball team did it again yesterday. This time, the Lady Lancers had to overcome a feisty South Side Beaver squad as well as a determined Mother Nature.
Neshannock runner honored for positive attitude
Lizzie Manickas was rewarded for her great disposition. The Neshannock High senior cross country and track and field standout received western Pennsylvania’s Most Positive High School Athlete Award.
Athlete of the Week: Meet Madison Shaffer of Neshannock
Madison Shaffer nearly was unbeatable last year. The scary thought for opponents of the Neshannock High softball team is the junior pitcher may be even better in her second year inside the circle.
Fees divide Neshannock school board
Members of the Neshannock Township school board displayed disagreement over various items when they met this week.
- More Neshannock Headlines
- Neshannock updates student handbooks