Hannah's Story

Twelve-year-old Hannah has always loved dance, but she is prone to concussions and skull fractures when she is physically active.

Her physical limitations couldn’t stop her from meeting one of her favorite television stars, Maddie Ziegler from the Lifetime show “Dance Moms,” and sharing her personal experience with a chronic illness.

Hannah stopped breathing when she was five days old. She suffered from frequent apnea, asthma, headaches, and acid reflux. She lived her life in and out of the hospital, undergoing countless tests . For the first two and a half years of Hannah’s life, her mom, Lori, was overwhelmed with fear for Hannah’s life. When all hope for an answer seemed lost, Hannah’s gestural doctor at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh suggested she have an MRI of her brain. This led to a Chiari malformation diagnosis. Hannah’s brain tissue was protruding into the spinal canal which required the life-saving surgery to remove a piece of her skull and part of her top vertebrae to relieve pressure on her brain. Hannah continues to visit Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh once a year for an MRI.

“Starlight has been really helpful to my family,” says Lori, who has watched Hannah relax with a Starlight Fun Center and in a Starlight Site at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. She and her family have also enjoyed several Starlight-sponsored outings with Hannah and her siblings. “When your child is sick, it is nice to know that people have donated money and items for your child to feel safe, secure, and that someone out there cares.”

Hannah credits her neurosurgeon, Dr. Ian Pollack, at Children’s Hospital Pittsburgh with saving her life. This year, she was deemed strong enough to enroll in her very first dance class and perform in the end-of-year recital, proving that her dance dreams can come true.