“Sam’s determination is at a level beyond what I can understand,” Sam Ford’s mom, Simone Lott, explains. At almost 3 years old, Sam has been through a multitude of health challenges and undergone more surgeries and procedures than most people do in their entire life. Yet even in the face of adversity, his determination and tenacity have never wavered.
During Simone’s pregnancy, doctors discovered the baby had a Grade IV brain hemorrhage in-utero. Then just three days later, at 24 weeks, six days gestation, Simone’s doctors learned her amniotic fluid was gone, so they worked quickly to deliver Sam. After birth, he was immediately rushed to Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, and Simone and her family came soon after to meet with Sam’s care team. About 24 hours later, Sam’s lungs began hemorrhaging — the bleeding was severe and doctors told the family he was “not likely to make it.”
However, Sam never stopped fighting. He spent his first 127 days at Children’s Minnesota, first in the neonatal intensive care unit and then in the intensive care unit.
Doctors worked quickly to get the bleeding in his lungs to stop. To help with his breathing, he was placed on an oscillator and eventually a ventilator. Sam was diagnosed with retinopathy of prematurity, a disease in premature babies where abnormal blood vessels grow in the retina, which can cause it to detach from the back of the eye and lead to blindness. Doctors also discovered he was missing the lining separating the right and left side of his brain. During his time in the hospital, Sam had four different surgeries and battled other issues like kidney problems and high blood pressure. Before going home, he was given an apnea monitor to monitor his breathing and heart rate.
On May 21, during the month he was originally due, Sam was discharged. His parents and siblings were overjoyed to bring him home. His siblings were especially excited to play with him and watch over him, as they weren’t able to see him often during the first few months of his life.
After discharge, Sam was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and septo-optic dysplasia (SOD). SOD is a rare brain development disorder, characterized by underdevelopment of the optic nerve, pituitary gland dysfunction and the absence of the midline part of the brain. He also has ongoing respiratory, stomach and seizure issues. To manage his health and try to prevent trips to the emergency room, Sam comes to Children’s Minnesota every four weeks for clinic appointments. Every time Sam visits, he brings his infectious smile with him and brightens his care team’s day.
Sam’s physician, Dr. Paula Mackey, works closely with his family and care team to monitor his health and see him when he’s in the clinic.
“Sam is truly a little ray of sunshine,” said Dr. Mackey. “He loves to smile, and exudes happiness. Despite his health challenges, Sam likes to play and engage with others, just like any toddler. Today, he is talking, moving and scooting around — a testament to his perseverance.”
Three years after his extended hospital stay, Sam is a happy, tenacious and active child. He continues to impress his family and medical team with his determination — he never gives up and tries again and again until he succeeds. He loves to be active and mobile, play outside and be with the people he loves. A few of his mom’s proudest moments were the first time he crawled and when he walked with his walker unassisted.
“Sam is such a positive kid, on good days and bad,” Simone said. “He smiles when people say ‘hi’ and radiates positivity. His lovable nature brings joy to everyone he interacts with.”