Annabella Spears, 11, spent her first Christmas in the hospital. Now, she wants to bring joy and Christmas cheer to other children undergoing treatment.
After she was born with a rare liver disease, Annabella spent her first Christmas at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, waiting for an organ transplant. Without a transplant, the chances of overcoming the disease were grim.
“She would’ve died,” Shad Spears, Annabella’s father, told WFAA.
Annabella’s best Christmas ever was last year, when she got a big surprise: a dog named Cinnamon.
Annabella had disliked dogs for a long time.
“She was literally mortified of dogs,” said Shad. “She was so scared of them.”
“She’d get away as far as she could,” added Annabella’s mom, Alexa Spears.
The change came when, while spending time in the hospital, Annabella met one of the hospital’s therapy dogs, Badger. Over time, Annabella’s fear diminished, and she fell in love with dogs. Last year, Shad decided it was the right time to try getting Annabella a dog of her own.
Shad and Alexa said that spending their child’s first Christmas in the hospital wasn’t exactly what they had dreamed of, but the staff made it magical and full of Christmas cheer.
“They had wreaths in the hallways, they had Christmas trees, carolers,” Alexa said. “They just really make it feel like Christmas,” said Shad.
It was during that first year in the hospital, when Annabella was just eight months old, that the family experienced its very own Christmas miracle: a new liver for Annabella.
These days, Annabella is healthy. Now she comes to the hospital during the holidays to give back to other children in need of some Christmas cheer. To help make things special, Annabella and her family decorate a tree every Christmas at the hospital.
“Like, just for like a minute it’s like nothing, there’s like no worries and you’re just a kid celebrating Christmas,” Annabella said.
Annabella says lighting a tree can light up someone’s world and she encourages everyone to try to give back with simple gestures.
“I don’t love Christmas for the presents and stuff,” she said. “Of course, I do love the presents, but it’s like all the decorations. I would definitely choose to go do that for them because I would want them to be happy even if they’re in the hospital.”
Annabella even created a unique ornament of her own. The proceeds from its sale are used to help pediatric patients like herself.