Two-year-old girl thriving after suffering brain bleed at birth

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Published: Dec. 16, 2021 at 9:51 AM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - A Topeka family is counting their blessings this holiday season as they marvel at how far their baby girl has come.

Izabell Hodges is two and a half years old with a smile that is contagious.

“If you don’t smile and feel joy when she smiles, you don’t have a soul,” said her father, Taylor Hodges.

Behind the smile, you wouldn’t know the battles Izzy has faced, one’s that began even before she entered this world.

“Her little heart had a little hole in it and she was getting too much blood due to twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome,” Taylor said.

Izzy’s twin sister, Josie, was not getting enough blood and passed away.

The twins’ mother, Melissa Hodges said, “It was really hard on me. There was a lot of self-blame. Did I do something? Did I forget the prenatal, did that cause it? So, there was a lot of inner turmoil for me.”

The sadness and grieving were replaced with fear when Izzy made her arrival just four days later.

“She spent four hours being hardcore stabilized, getting blood transfusions, and basically anything to keep her alive at that point,” Taylor said.

Izzy spent 120 days in the NICU at Children’s Mercy in Kansas City. During that time, she had heart surgery and the first of eighteen brain surgeries in just the first two years of her life.

The Hodges said they held their breath each time, hoping to see Izzy’s smiling face again.

“We’ve had a lot of scary moments through her life that were touch and go,” Taylor continued saying, “It was just instantly overwhelming and scary, but gratifying to see this little girl progressing.”

Seeing Izzy today happy, growing, and learning can only be described as a victory.

“Just seeing her go from the little baby that we didn’t know if she was going to make it out of the NICU, to her little sassy self, she has taught us so much to just take life each moment at a time,” said Melissa.

Every milestone, no matter how big or small, is celebrated. Something the Hodges said they learned from TARC, a non-profit organization that supports families of kids with disabilities.

TARC was founded in 1954. Izzy is currently in their tiny-k early intervention program designed for children ages 0-3.

“Being a special needs mom you sometimes feel isolated,” Melissa continued saying, “Having TARC there with us and giving us the correct tools, the correct expectations, it’s what’s given us all the power and the road map to figure out this crazy life of ours.”

Taylor agreed and added, “Izzy is how she is because of TARC. I don’t think there’s one thing we could have done on our own that we could provide on the level that TARC does. They give her speech, vision, feeding, PT, OT, every skillset that they have, they’ve provided for Izzy and it’s amazing.”

Sherry Lundry, Development Director with TARC said she remembers when the Hodges first came to them. “Izzy was just a small two-pound baby that came home from the NICU, so she has progressed from not being able to do much of anything to what you see now and that is she smiles, she throws kisses, she laughs, and she has progressed quite a ways.”

A feat Melissa and Taylor were told may never be possible.

“We did have one doctor that told us what you see is what you get, with all her brain damage and everything, we don’t know if she’s ever going to be able to eat, talk, walk, do anything, so, don’t get your hopes up too much,” she said. However, TARC changed that narrative and comes to Izzy’s home twice a week for therapy.

“It’s peace of mind knowing that we don’t have to drive an hour, hour and a half every time she needs PT or OT,” Melissa continued saying, “Having something here locally in our community and they come to us, they work around our schedules, is amazing.”

TARC is able to provide these free services through fundraisers, like their Winter Wonderland lights display open from 6-10 p.m. nightly through December 31. Lundry said 90 cents of every dollar donated, directly benefits children like Izzy.

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