Tuesday marked a homecoming 650 days in the making for 21-month-old Naomi Hawks. A rare defect has forced the toddler to call Children’s Hospital and Medical Center home since the day she was born.
“She’s amazing,” said Mandy Hawks, Naomi’s mother. “She’s taught me what it means to be brave.”
Naomi is just shy of 2 years old, but her personality is anything but that.
For the 651 days she’s been alive, a hospital room has been Naomi’s life.
“The doctors didn’t expect her to live to be 1,” Mandy Hawks said.
Naomi and her twin, Hannah, were born prematurely, but Naomi’s battle would be much bigger than her sister’s. She was born with an abdominal defect called an omphalocele.
“She really has two major problems,” said Dr. Andrew Macfadyen at Children’s. “One, her intestines are outside the body and the second is that her lungs are too small.”
The extremely rare condition requires Naomi to breathe through a trach and ventilator.
“Multiple occasions she has been on death’s door literally and yet she pulls through it,” Macfadyen said.
Naomi is small, but mighty, with a strong support system behind her. Her parents, Vince and Mandy Hawks, visiting her every single day.
The family adjusted their lifestyle to make it work. Sharing one car, Mandy would drive Vince to work and then head to Children’s with Hannah.
“We come up here and I usually do Naomi’s dressing on her omphalocele in the morning, get her dressed, get her teeth brushed, hair brushed and then the girls play and I hang out,” Mandy Hawks said.
Then Mandy and Hannah would go pick up Vince from work, only for one of them to return to put Naomi to bed at night.
“This is our normal, so we don’t know anything else,” Mandy Hawks said. “We became parents because we wanted to be parents and take care of our kids. We figured out how to do it, even in the hospital.”
Their little girl finally left the hospital on Tuesday.
“It kind of hasn’t sunk in yet,” Mandy Hawks said.
After 650 days, Naomi took her victory lap through the halls of Children’s.
“She’s got a testimony that is just going to blow people away,” Mandy Hawks said. “Her life is already a legacy, I think.”
“For them to be rewarded by having both their kids under the same roof tonight is very heartwarming,” Macfadyen said.
Naomi’s hospital visits are far from over. She still needs complete support from a ventilator and her lungs need to develop more before doctors can consider performing a surgery to reverse her omphalocele.