On February 18, 2015, Audrey Ann Wiggins’ (“Cricket”) life was cut short due to complications brought on by Esophageal Atresia/Tracheoesophagel Fistual (EA/TEF), a rare congenital birth defect that affects over 500 babies every year in the United States alone.
EA/TEF is a birth defect in which the esophagus does not fully connect to their stomach and sometimes forms other attachments. In Audrey’s case, her esophagus connected directly to her lung.
During her 18 months with us, Audrey’s smile and her determination captivated the hearts and minds of tens of thousands of people around the world. Her family created Audrey’s Army to share her story and rally prayer warriors for their beloved “Cricket”. More than 15,000 people follow Audrey’s Army on Facebook.
Audrey spent her first six months of life in the NICU at CS Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan Health System. Audrey in total spent more than half of her life in the hospital and endured more than 80 procedures during 35 trips to the operating room. While Audrey did have successful open heart surgery, most of her procedures were related to EA/TEF and attempts to repair her esophagus.
Audrey’s initial repair went better than expected. However, it became apparent rather quickly that our sweet girl had tissue that just would not heal well. Scar tissue began to tighten and stricture her esophagus closed.
Numerous procedures were performed to open the strictured area of her esophagus. Several times these procedures resulted in tissue tearing and infections. We talked often with her surgical team about the limited number of options, none of which were ideal.
On New Year’s Day 2015, Audrey became very ill and she was admitted to Mott once again. We began researching harder, calling other facilities, surgeons, and families with experience in the complications of this disease. We posed hard questions to our surgical team regarding the possibility of using other surgical techniques in new ways.
Devastatingly, before we could pursue other options, and despite a warrior’s effort, Audrey's body, tired from 18 months of struggle and surgeries, was unable to sustain her.
We refuse to let Audrey’s story end here. Research in new surgical techniques in this particular area of the disease is miniscule due to lack of available funding.
As a parent, it is crushing and suffocating to hear that advancements are out there but unavailable because the rarity of this disease makes it next to impossible to navigate the checks and balances required to make these life saving techniques available.
Audrey's Army, in conjunction with Audrey's surgeon, Dr. Kunisaki at C.S. Mott Children's Hospital plan to change this for the children of our future. A fund has been set up in memory of Audrey Ann Wiggins to support a specific research project that is dear to our hearts. With the potential for a procedure that could have saved her life, and that could be available to save others, this is a perfect match. This research is not able to be funded by the hospital or the university, so simply put, if we do not fund it, it will not happen. Audrey's Army has committed to rallying our warriors to raise the $200,000 needed over the next five years in order to develop this procedure.
Will you join us, warriors? Click on the link below to show your financial support!
More information on the various forms of this disease can be found by clicking on the below links.