Meet Chloe Wilkin

Chloe Wilkin isn’t supposed to be alive. She isn’t supposed to be a walking, talking, laughing, dancing 2-year-old whose charisma stops adults in their tracks.

Thanks to you, though, Chloe’s parents found their way to a doctor at Arkansas Children’s Hospital who told them not to give up — no matter what the tests showed, no matter what the statistics said.

Beau Branson was just 16 weeks pregnant when an ultrasound showed something wrong with her baby’s brain. At 20 weeks, she and her partner Tim Wilkin got the official diagnosis. Their daughter had an opening at the base of her skull, and as her brain grew, it would squeeze out of the opening into a sac or cyst. 

Beau’s doctor said her baby had less than a 10 percent chance of surviving birth, and even if she did, she would never leave the hospital. There was nothing Beau and Tim could do other than keep her comfortable. “Go home and pray,” he told them as they left.

So they did. And then they met with ACH neurosurgeon Dr. Eylem Ocal when Beau was 36 weeks pregnant.

“She was the only one who had hope,” Beau says. “She said, ‘We’ll just have to see. Let’s wait until she gets here, do an MRI and we’ll go from there.”

When Chloe was delivered by c-section at UAMS, the cyst protruding from the base of her skull was bigger than her head.

The Angel One ambulance team picked her up and took her immediately to the NICU at ACH. The MRI gave them no reason to hope—“It was much worse than anything we’d seen beforehand,” Tim says—but the next day, Dr. Ocal offered to operate as a palliative care measure. Beau was still recovering at UAMS, but the ACH staff used telemedicine capabilities so she could see Chloe and talk to the doctor.

“That was our first experience with Arkansas Children’s,” Tim says. “Even though Beau was at another hospital and couldn’t be with Chloe, everything was set up in place so she could see what was going on with our baby in real time.”

Early the next morning, Beau checked out of UAMS and came to hold her daughter before she went into surgery. “Even then, Dr. Ocal said she didn’t know whether she was going to live through the surgery or not,” Tim says. Six hours later, though, Chloe came out of the operating room with nothing but a bandage where the cyst had been.

“Every day after that, it was just like another little miracle,” Tim says. First, she breathed on her own. Then she suckled a pacifier, and the day after that she ate from a bottle. On the third or fourth day, one of Chloe’s nurses suggested maybe it was time to buy some baby clothes.

Chloe has had five brain surgeries now, but she has surpassed anyone’s wildest expectations so far that it’s impossible to say what her long-term prognosis is — she and her doctors at ACH are all in uncharted territory. ACH’s Palliative Care team coordinates Chloe’s care through the hospital’s neurosurgery, ophthalmology, neurology, and Circle of Friends primary care clinics. At 2 1/2 years old, Chloe’s a little wobbly, but she walks independently. She goes to therapy three times a week and has met every goal they’ve set for her.

Tim and Beau hope that by sharing their story, they can pay forward the amazing care they’ve received from Arkansas Children’s. And they are grateful to donors like you who made it possible for them to take Chloe home.

“If Arkansas Children’s wasn’t here, Chloe wouldn’t be here now,” Beau says. “No one else could handle her diagnosis."

Donate in honor of Chloe by visiting her fundraising page here. Until no child needs us, we need you.

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