Is it possible to fall in love with a hospital?
Ariyah’s mom says she did back in 2009 when her newborn came to Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital for surgery that likely saved her life. The experience actually altered the course of both of their lives. “I decided I wanted to be a nurse. I just loved everyone in this hospital and what great care they took of us. It has always been our hospital.”
In December 2018, Jazmyne returned to the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Emergency Center—where she now works—this time with Ariyah in tow. Ariyah—who has maintained a pretty active and exciting life for a 9-year old with Down syndrome, asthma, sleep apnea and more—was having difficulty breathing due to her asthma.
Or so they thought.
Doctors quickly assessed her situation and determined she was suffering from walking pneumonia, which was rapidly morphing into a severe lung infection. Ariyah was immediately admitted and her frightened mother dropped everything in order to remain by her side.
“Thankfully I have a very strong support system. It’s me, my mom and my grandmother raising Ariyah,” she explains with a proud smile. But even that can’t fix everything, so Jazmyne’s beloved coworkers stepped in to help sign her up for the Family Medical Leave Act, which allowed her to leave work so she could focus on getting her daughter healthy.
While the paperwork ensures the safety of her job, her paycheck stops, so friends stepped in to help raise money to keep growing bills paid and keep the small but tight-knit family going through what was to become a two-month ordeal.
Ariyah, who is a beloved student and popular cheerleader, had her own support system of teachers, neighbors and fellow students who all wanted to help her out with thoughts, well wishes and donations.
“Ariyah has always been a fighter. But her lungs were just not getting stronger on their own,” Jazmyne explains. “She was soon diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension, rhino-enterovirus and she started having seizures. We were terrified.”
Doctors decided Ariyah could benefit from extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), which helps circulate the patient’s blood through a heart-lung bypass machine to improve oxygen levels. It sometimes is the last hope for keeping a child alive and helping him or her recover from a disease process.
Initially, the ECMO team thought Ariyah might need to use the device for as long as two weeks. Jazmyne was frightened but determined to do everything she possibly could to heal Ariyah’s lungs. After six days, Ariyah was ready to breathe on her own.
"We were amazed,” Jazmyne says. “He took her off the machines and within an hour she was breathing normally. It’s amazing. She’s doing so much better now.
“We cherish this little girl, and we are so grateful that she’s getting better. Ariyah has always been loved, and she lights up a room when she walks in it. It has made me so emotional to see how many people love her and have rallied around us through all of this. It’s like we have our own tribe.”
Jazmyne realized she has come to know every single doctor and nurse in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) and that they’ve all been supportive. “Even after working here, I never truly understood what a special place this is,” she says. “Don’t give up parents. Our kids are stronger than we think.”
This Mom—and enthusiastic Johns Hopkins All Children’s employee busily working toward a master’s degree in developmental disabilities—is grateful. And she adds one more member to the team. “Of course, Ariyah is helping too,” she adds. “Right Ariyah?” she asked to a smiling little girl still trying to get her voice and strength back.
“Yup!” Ariyah nods heartily.