“I just knew something was wrong with Noelle from a very young age,” explained her mother, Danielle. “I took her from doctor to doctor and they kept saying nothing was wrong. But I persisted and am thankful that I did.”
Danielle’s search for answers led her to Tufts Children's Hospital at Tufts Medical Center where Noelle, at the age of five, was diagnosed with dysplastic spondylolisthesis, a congenital defect in which one vertebra slips forward onto the vertebrae below, causing constant pain and numbness in the legs and other problems. Danielle was relieved to finally get a diagnosis and added, “My daughter could have been paralyzed by the activities she was doing -- running and jumping on a trampoline!”
Noelle was placed in a rigid back brace for three years. Each time she went through a procedure or difficult situation, the hospital staff would provide a prize which kept her spirits up. After she endured a 90 minute MRI one day, Noelle noticed the reward closet was nearly empty. She asked what would happen to the patients after her. The staff said that the prizes are donated, mostly from staff, and that unfortunately sometimes there aren’t enough donations. Noelle knew how important receiving a toy was to her, so she decided to raise money to fill the prize closets and bring smiles to patients at the hospital.
As soon as her brace was off, Noelle started swimming for therapy. Then she got the idea to swim for charity to raise funds for her toy donation program. She also hosts toy drives and shops during sales to make the most of the donations. To date, $15,000 in toys, gifts and prizes has been raised by young Noelle!
While the future looks bright, her mother often looks back. “If the doctor at Tufts Children's Hospital had not diagnosed my daughter’s condition, I don’t know where we would be today,” Danielle said. “I recommend Tufts Medical Center and Tufts Children's Hospital to everyone.”
Noelle still returns to Tufts Children's Hospital for regular checkups – and also to make sure the toy closets are fully stocked.