Ke’Mora McMiller may be soft-spoken, but don’t underestimate her quiet demeanor. Her mother Sabrina says, “Whenever she’s quiet, greatness comes.”
The 12-year-old from Indianapolis loves being creative, from playing the ukulele to making slime. All that was nearly stolen from her last September. What began as an upset stomach escalated into sudden cardiac arrest while she was riding in the car with her mother. “She made a sound that I’ve never heard before,” Sabrina says. “They told me later that was her taking her last breath.”
In the emergency room at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health, doctors put Ke’Mora on ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation), a life support system that does the work of the heart and lungs as a patient’s body stabilizes. They diagnosed her with viral myocarditis, a virus that attacks the heart. She was in isolation until her twelfth birthday, which her family and caregivers celebrated together.
While Ke’Mora continued rehabilitation therapy, her younger siblings spent their fall break from school in the Child Life Zone, an area within Riley Hospital designed for therapeutic play. Child Life Specialists, who are funded primarily by Riley Children’s Foundation donors, offer daily activities. “The Child Life Zone allows kids to be kids,” said Melissa Sexton, Child Life Special Events Supervisor. “It’s a place where you almost forget you’re in the hospital.”
The McMiller family bonded with Melissa when they learned that Melissa’s late sister, Amanda Glover, had been a teacher for Ke’Mora and one of her brothers. “She was like an angel for our family,” said Sabrina of Melissa. “Because of the Child Life Zone, my kids were in a safe place and they always felt welcome.”
“Child Life is not just about the patient,” says Melissa. “It’s about how we can impact the whole family’s encounter with us.” Melissa says it was powerful to watch the McMillers together when Ke’Mora got strong enough to join her brothers. “You could tell it was special for Sabrina to watch her kids together, when just a few weeks before she wasn’t sure that was going to happen again.”
One month after that terrifying night in the emergency room, Ke’Mora went home fully recovered. She wants to reassure kids who are facing their own health battles about Riley Hospital. “It’s a good place to be,” she said. Her mother adds, “The staff tells us how big of a miracle she is, and we believe that.”