A real life miracle: The story of Abbey Metty

Teenage girl makes miraculous recovery, training to run in a 5K Cancer Fundraiser

DETROIT - Where Abbey's story begins

At sixteen weeks gestation, Abbey Metty was diagnosed with a "Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia." This is a fancy way to say she had a hole in her diaphragm. The cause is unknown. One in eight thousand babies have this condition (of varying degrees). Her hole was so large that her stomach, liver, and bowels were moving into her lung cavity. This causes the lungs not to be able to develop, as well as heart failure. She was given a less than 10% chance for survival.

At 28 weeks

At twenty-eight weeks gestation, Abbey (and mom) had fetal surgery in Philadelphia. She was the thirteenth person to ever have this surgery. When they operated, they took her out, put small clips on her trachea (so that fluid would build up in her lungs causing them to expand and push her lower organs down), and put her back in the womb. At thirty-six weeks, she was born and they removed the clips. Unfortunately, she did not have enough lung growth. She was placed on a heart/lung bypass machine, and received experimental liquid ventilation. Most people who are put on this bypass machine are put on for a few hours or maybe for a few days. Abbey was on the machine for nineteen days. It saved her life, but it was also the cause of her brain bleed. The bleed was technically a "stroke", therefore she is considered hemiplegic or it can be called mild cerebral palsy. After her lungs stabilized, she underwent surgery to repair her diaphragm. They put a gortex (like raincoat material) patch on her diaphragm. She also went through a withdrawal period from pain medication. She came home six weeks after she was born. She was Philadelphia's first patient to survive.

The first year

Due to all of the machines she was on, she lost her sucking reflex. She was fed her a feeding tube that went from her nose to her stomach. Her first year was the roughest because her gortex patch needed to be replaced three times. Due to all of these surgeries, she also had to have bowel obstruction surgery, and a permanent feeding tube put in as well. Pretty much her first year she had doctors, nurses, x-ray techs prodding and poking at her all of the time. She became pretty shy to strangers, due to fear that they were going to hurt her.

Miracles do happen

Her health stabilized at age one, and over the next fourteen years she has been a real trooper continuously participating in all types of therapy. She has received physical therapy, occupational therapy, botox shots to improve the muscle tone in her arm, electric stimulation on her left arm, therapeutic horseback riding, swimming and feeding therapy. Her gross motor skills have been delayed. Fortunately, her cognitive abilities have been her strength! At age two and a half she just started walking, but she knew her ABC's and could read simple pattern books. She has been eating and drinking on her own since she started kindergarten.

Abbey used to wear leg braces. Currently, she only wears a hand brace. She has very limited use of her left arm/hand. She does mostly everything with her right arm/hand.

Due to her CP, Abbey also has scoliosis. She is taken routinely to have her back measured as she is very close to needing a rod.  She can't wear a back brace because the curve is in a spot a brace can't help with.

Four years ago Abbey started having seizures. Medication was not helping. They began to become so frequent (70 plus a day) that it wasn't safe for her to go up the stairs, use the shower, be alone or go to school. The seizures were stemming from the part of her brain that was damaged from her stoke as a baby. Two years ago, she had a hemispherectomy at Children's Hospital of Detroit (removed 75% of her right side of her brain) to remove the damaged part of her brain. She has not had a seizure since and is off all of her medications.

Abbey's dream of running

---Abbey Mattey is training to run in a 5K Cancer Fundraiser on June 3 at Stony Creek

Abbey has never wanted special treatment. She doesn't like to be put on the spot, or have a lot of special attention put on her. She loves to swim, read and sing. She is a 9th grader at Malow. She will go to Eisenhower High School in the fall. She is in choir and Spanish. She wants to be a teacher when she grows up. She loves working with little kids. She helps out at home (even makes everyone's lunches).

And now, Abbey told her parents she wanted to run in a 5K Cancer Fundraiser on June 3 at Stony Creek. Her parents enrolled her in a 5K training program and has been training for the past 6 weeks.

If you would like to participate

More information: 3rd Annual Pink and Blue United for a Cure Run/Walk

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