Isabella Nicole Hammer was a sweet girl with a big heart. Affectionately known by family and friends as "Bella," she had a zest for life and a fiery spirit. Bella made her entrance into the world on March 11, 2011. She was born at 34 weeks gestation, weighing 4lbs 4oz and measuring 18 inches long. She endured a four week NICU stay at Stony Brook Hospital after it was discovered that she was born with Esophageal Atresia and a Tracheoesophageal Fistula, a birth defect in which part of a baby's esophagus does not develop properly and an abnormal connection between the esophagus and the trachea exists. Her brave and fierce nature was evident from early on as she endured an unexpected surgery at 2 days old. Her recovery was rough with lots of ups and downs, but our little warrior pushed through.
Bella continued to face a number of medical challenges as she grew older. She worked hard at Physical Therapy, which she began at 11 months of age, and Occupational Therapy, which she began at the age of 4. Bella also worked with a Speech Therapist to assist her with her swallowing issues. Around the age of 2, Bella also began experiencing "dizzy spells," which doctors later diagnosed as Childhood Vertigo with Migraines at the age of 8. Despite these challenges, Bella did not let this bring her spirit down. She was a happy, inquisitive child eager to learn about the world around her. As she grew older, she had a mischievous side and enjoyed playing pranks on her family.
In the spring of 2020, two months after celebrating Bella's 9th birthday, Bella's world and that of her family was turned upside down. In mid-May 2020, Bella experienced what was thought to be one of her migraine episodes. This time, however, the symptoms did not go away and she experienced new symptoms. On May 28, 2020, Bella was brought to Cohen Children's Hospital, where her parents received devastating news. Bella was diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), a rare, fast-growing brain tumor that forms in the glial cells of the pons. The prognosis was grim and every parent's worst nightmare. As of today, there is no cure for DIPG, merely a myriad of clinical trials.
During Bella's DIPG journey, hospital visits were a regular occurrence. On one particular evening at Cohen Children's Hospital, while Bella awaited what would be her last Brain and Spine MRI, she opened up to her mom about how she wanted to hold a toy drive. Bella conveyed how touched she was by the many toys and crafts she was given that made her radiation treatments, hospital stays, chemo treatments, and rough days at home a little easier. She wanted to spread the same joy she felt to other sick children and bring a smile to their face despite the medical challenges they were going through. Together, Bella and her mom created an Amazon Wish list and Bella's Wish was created.
Bella and the Hammer Family were touched by the generous donations given by family, friends, and community and wanted to give back in honor of their daughter. As of August 2022, three fundraisers have been held with the support of Bella's elementary school, Slocum Elementary in Ronkonkoma, NY, and Mount Pleasant Elementary School in Smithtown, NY, mom's place of employment. One of these fundraisers was held in conjunction with the Make-a-Wish Foundation, in which Bella's wish from the foundation was used to hold her first toy run posthumously. All donations collected have been given to the Child Life Department at Cohen Children's Hospital, where Bella received her care, and the Ronald McDonald House at Stony Brook University Hospital, where Bella spent her final days.
Bella bravely fought DIPG until February 13, 2021, one month shy of her 10th birthday. Bella is survived by her mom (Jessica), dad (Christopher), younger sister (Sophia), Bella's dog (Bailey), and Sophia's dog (Sky).
Please check back for upcoming toy drives and fundraisers.
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