This fountain was located at Arkansas Children’s. Olivia’s wish came true just a few days later, nearly 50 days after being admitted to the hospital with a very sudden and frightening mystery illness.
Within hours of the Williams’ arrival at Arkansas Children's from their home in Van Buren, Olivia was admitted into the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) under the care of Dr. Brendan Crawford, who felt her symptoms were pointing toward a kidney disease called HUS (hemolytic uremic syndrome).
By the next day, Olivia’s kidneys had shut down completely, and she was given a catheter and put on dialysis. Her condition continued to worsen, however, as her immune system began attacking itself and shutting down multiple organs.
“It was a very hard moment for everyone,” remembers her mom Sheena. “At that point, she was fighting for her life. The doctors were doing everything they could, but there were so many unknowns. All we could do, as parents, was pray.”
Olivia had several blood and plasma transfusions while battling a gut infection. Her initial bout with symptoms had caused her colon to perforate and surgery was performed to remove 75 percent of the organ.
A breakthrough came when Olivia’s diagnosis was determined to be atypical HUS, an extremely rare illness affecting two people per million of the general U.S. population. She began treatment involving regular infusions of an immune blocker and was soon on the long road to recovery.
“Olivia worked hard,” says her mother. “Our goal was to go home not on dialysis, and she did it.” Olivia had an ostomy bag. "She is doing fantastic,” says Sheena.
Olivia’s dad Jacob says the proactive approach of Olivia’s team inspired confidence from the very beginning. “They were always ready with a plan for each scenario. It was scary, but we fully trusted the doctors.”
With an overwhelming amount of new information to deliver each day, the Williamses say the staff showed extraordinary sensitivity and patience. “They gave me time to write everything down,” recalls Sheena. “I could ask the same question 15 or 20 times and it did not phase anyone to have to repeat themselves.” She filled several journals with her own notes and lab reports.
“Olivia was a very complex case, and every single person at ACH handled it with grace and authority. We could not have asked for a better team from the very beginning. I would not trade one person we came in contact with…everybody was absolutely incredible.”
Olivia now visits Arkansas Children’s Northwest (ACNW) for lab work and infusions, which shaves about three hours off the trip the Williams were making to Little Rock—no small gain for busy parents of two, Sheena says.
“I can drive Olivia to ACNW, she can get her lab work done, and before I get home I have a call from the nephrology department letting me know what the plan is.”
Given such a rare and special case, it only made sense for Olivia’s surgical team to nickname themselves “Team Unicorn,” to the lasting delight of their patient. Her family thinks everyone at Arkansas Children’s is pretty special, if not actually magical.
“It was more than just a job to them,” says Sheena. “The nurses, the greeters, the custodians--at every single level, we built relationships, and then genuine friendships, that we will cherish forever. The pure love they have for Olivia, and the gifts and talents they have for their work, are just phenomenal.”