If you want to find Abbie Jacks there’s a good chance she is outdoors and probably in a barn taking care of her 4-H animals. “I could live outside. It is where I am most at home,” she says. The 18-year-old takes life by the horns. “Abbie has the biggest heart,” says her mother, Jennifer Jacks. “She wants to take care of every animal. Every little person. She wants to learn and share. Plus, she always has a smile.”
Four years ago, life took a sharp turn for Abbie when she was involved in a school bus accident. The impact caused damage to her pancreas and led to the first of many lengthy stays at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health. “Early on, we didn’t realize how severe her injuries were,” says Jennifer. “We went through anger. We grieved what she lost, her sports, friends, her college plans. But thanks to Riley, our whole mindset changed. We knew there was a silver lining in every experience.”
Abbie lives with chronic pancreatitis and cyclic vomiting syndrome, which are painful and debilitating. Daily nausea also makes the simplest tasks challenging. Abbie visits Riley Pediatric Anesthesiologist James Tolley, M.D., four times a year through the Riley Pain Program, and sees Riley Pediatric Gastroenterologist Joseph Croffie, M.D., each month. “What impresses me about Abbie is that she has a positive attitude despite her chronic disease,” says Dr. Croffie. “She is persevering. Other Riley kids can learn from her how to not let their illnesses define who they are.” “Dr. Croffie and his team are amazing,” says Abbie. “He’s always happy, cracking jokes and always brings me up. They want to make me feel like my situation is okay.”
Now the teen is all about giving back. She participates in the Fishers High School Dance Marathon, which raised $100,426 for Riley during the 2017-18 school year (and $373,427 total to date). Because of her experience, Abbie hopes to become a pediatric nurse. “I want to be that nurse that kids remember and ask for. I want them to know I understand because I am a Riley kid too,” she says.
Jennifer knows despite her daughter’s medical challenges, a bright future lies ahead. “Once you meet her she is contagious. People are drawn to her, her story and what she has done with it,” she says. “That perseverance makes her a true champion.”
Click here to learn more about our Riley Champions program.