FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — KNWA/FOX24 is hosting the eighth annual Give Kids a Miracle Telethon for Arkansas Children’s Northwest Hospital.
The money raised by the telethon will help give sick kids a fighting chance at life by bringing in expert pediatric doctors to Northwest Arkansas. One of the telethon’s ambassadors is Camden Tucker.
ACNW’s care was crucial to her multiple battles with heart defects. Camden’s parents have piles of medical records dating back to their daughter’s baby years.
“At two years old, the doctor heard a heart murmur and ended up sending us to Children’s Hospital to get it checked out and we found out that she had a growth on the inside of her heart,” said Camden’s dad, Donald Tucker.
Unknown to her parents at the time, Camden’s diagnosis of Severe Aortic Stenosis was the start of a life-long relationship with ACNW. Her disease worsened over the next few years, and around her fifth birthday, her parents had to sit her down and tell her she needed open heart surgery.
“When your daughter has open heart surgery at five years old, it’s traumatic for mom and dad,” said her father.
Camden says she doesn’t remember the open heart surgery as her parents do. Instead, she says her trauma is masked by coloring pages and crafts she was able to make while at Arkansas Children’s in Little Rock.
“It helped me get my mind off of being in the hospital and all the scary things that were happening to me,” said Camden. “It helped me feel more normal.”
Open heart surgery helped correct her congenital heart defect, but for years after the surgery, she had to visit the hospital once a month to have her heart checked out.
Her parents said they were often filled with fear and anxiety at the thought of something happening to their daughter again when the nearest Arkansas Children’s was in Little Rock. Donald said he felt more at peace when the Children’s Hospital was built in Springdale, and they knew they could get Camden the care she needed much quicker.
Camden’s heart once again brought those fears to life. At age 13, she received her second diagnosis of supraventricular tachycardia.
“My heart rate would go up just randomly when I was sitting in class or when I was laying in bed,” said Camden.
While balancing homework and friends, Camden was in and out of ACNW, where doctors gave her medicine to lower her dangerously high heart rates. Then in ninth grade, Camden received two more surgeries to fix her SVT.
Yet Camden’s battle with heart issues didn’t end there. Her family went on a family fishing trip during her junior year of high school. It was during the height of the pandemic, and they were unaware when Camden caught the COVID-19 virus.
After coming in from a day of social distancing from other families and fishing on a boat in Mountain Home, Camden went into cardiac arrest.
“You’re going from fishing on a boat to moments later trying to keep your kid alive. That’s just, that’s the definition of horror right there,” said Donald. “Just pure terror.”
After calling an ambulance and getting her to a hospital, Camden’s family requested Angel One fly her from the Mountain Home hospital to ACNW. Once there, she was in a coma for a week.
After waking up, it was clear that Camden had suffered brain damage. She couldn’t write her name or tie her shoes. Now, as Camden’s recovery continues years later, she strives to help kids just like her through a project titled “Camden’s Crafts.”
“I want to be able to give back to those who are in the hospital like I was, so I like to donate crafts to Children’s Hospital,” she said.
You can join Camden and ACNW in helping kids around NWA by donating to the Give Kids a Miracle Telethon on Feb. 23 from 5 a.m. – 10:30 p.m. Just call 479-455-KIDS or donate here.