In most ways, Aubree S. of Springdale, Arkansas is like any other eight-year-old girl. She’s in second grade and has a white dog named Mo. Her favorite subject in school is science. She loves to sing and make up songs and wants to be a singer when she grows up. She loves to dress up like Disney princesses, play board games, cook, bake cakes, swing, ride her bike, read books, do crafts, pick flowers, look at insects, and create art. In fact, she won 1st place in the Tossed sculpture contest, tot division, at the Benton County Fair this year.
“I picked up litter and then made a Colorful Garden sculpture from it,” Aubree says. “I love flowers, rainbows, and butterflies, so I made my sculpture of those things. I was excited to win first place! I love art, especially painting.”
What makes Aubree special, and the reason she’s our Kid Hero this month, is all that she’s accomplished in spite of a serious medical condition that she lives with every single day.
You see, Aubree was born with a genetic condition called Jeune’s syndrome, that makes her ribcage really small and tight, affecting the ability of her lungs to expand and breathe. She spent 4 weeks in the intensive care unit after she was born and then 10 months in the hospital before she was 1 1/2 years old because she had a very hard time breathing. Some kids don’t survive her condition, but Aubree was able to come home after that very long and scary hospital stay. She needed a lot of medical supports to help her breathe and grow, such as a tracheostomy, ventilator, and feeding tube. They were scary at first, but they are what Aubree needs to live a full and happy life. Also since she was a baby, she has had rods on each side of her ribcage to help her ribcage to grow and expand. Aubree needs surgery 2-3 times a year to expand the rods so that she can continue to have room to breathe.
Aubree’s mom says she is an extremely joyful child who doesn’t let her health challenges and medical accessories get in the way of having fun. She says “What makes her special is her ability to notice and appreciate the smallest beautiful details, her beautiful smile, her contagious laugh, excitement for surprises, her joy despite her circumstances, her bravery in all of her surgeries and procedures, her perseverance in accomplishing things that are difficult for her.” Instead of being shy or fearful, Aubree is very bold and willing to try new things and loves to dance “with her whole heart with no worry of others watching.”
Aubree sometimes has to work hard to do things that other kids take for granted like walking, talking and coloring. But that doesn’t stop her or slow her down. She works really hard, and has done and overcome so much with her determination. Now she runs, talks, sings and has fun doing things that other eight-year-olds do. She does speech, occupational and physical therapy to keep working on her skills and to help her be the best and strongest she can be.
Aubree’s health challenges and medical accessories make her different than other kids. She knows what it’s like to feel sick and she feels a lot of compassion for other kids who might be sick, saying “I really want them to feel better!”
She also has something to say to kids who have something about them that makes them different: “Being different is good.”
Aubree believes that everyone is different in their own way. No two people are the same, and she thinks that’s a good thing.
If you wonder about someone’s difference, it’s always okay to ask politely. Aubree and her parents appreciate it when someone does that. Just know and remember that someone’s difference doesn’t make them who they are, it is just part of the whole, unique person they are.
“If you see someone who might have differences you notice right away, don’t be afraid. They are a person just like you!” Aubree’s mom says. “Feel free to say hello, play with, or interact with them just like you would anyone else.”