Hannah Croker turned 17 this week. Like many girls her age, the Baconton teen celebrated with a party. Unlike most other teenagers, she didn’t want any gifts for herself. Hannah asked her guests to bring donations to help pediatric patients at Phoebe. “I want to help everyone else,” Hannah said. At age 14, Hannah was left paralyzed following a devastating car crash. She has spent a lot of time in several hospitals over the last two and a half years, but she feels most connected to the staff at Phoebe. “They would stay and talk to me for hours and play with my hair and paint my fingernails. They helped give me a regular life again,” she said. The thing that has brought Hannah the most joy in her recovery is an activity she didn’t want to try at first. “I thought I would look absolutely ridiculous with a paintbrush in my mouth,” she said, but Phoebe Child Life Specialist Mandy Fagiano persisted. She convinced Hannah to try it by agreeing to paint the same way right alongside Hannah. The two quickly developed an amazing bond. “Hannah is my heart. We have a special connection,” Fagiano said. Hannah agrees. “She’s one of my best friends,” she said. Hannah’s painting skills have improved dramatically since those early days. “The more I do, the better I get.” She admits she still has some down days, but her attitude and outlook are far different than in the weeks after her accident. “I was very upset and mad at everything and didn’t think I could do anything,” Hannah said. “Then I realized I could. I just had to do things in different ways.” One of Hannah’s recent paintings is a beautiful watercolor of a lone sailboat on the water. She decided to auction it off to the highest bidder through her Prayers for Hannah Croker Facebook page. Thursday at Phoebe, Hannah presented the painting to a gleeful Tammy Sue McGough. “There’s not enough money in the world to keep me from getting this painting because I love Hannah so much,” McGough said. Hannah’s accident happened not far from McGough’s home. She was dealing with her mother’s terminal cancer as she followed Hannah’s progress, creating an emotional connection with Hannah and her family. “I needed something positive to talk to mom about, and Hannah’s story was that,” McGough said. McGough paid $121 for Hannah’s painting which she plans to frame and hang near the main entrance to her home so that she can see it every time she comes and goes. Hannah donated that money as well as $120 raised at her birthday party to the Phoebe Foundation to buy art supplies so that other young patients at Phoebe can find comfort in art as she did. Hannah also gave a box full of toys people brought to her party. They will be used in the playroom in the Pediatric Unit. Hannah says she will continue to paint and auction her artwork, not only as part of her own recovery, but to help others as well.
Source: Phoebe Putney Health System