“Four years ago was born a miracle”

Patient Stories |

12/26/2023

Hazel4web

An incredibly rare pregnancy complication threatened this child’s life before she was born, but today Hazel Grace is a sassy, social and strong 4-year-old.

By Maureen Gilmer, Riley Children’s Health senior writer, mgilmer1@iuhealth.org

If you’ve ever wanted to see a miracle up close, take a look at this little girl.

Hazel Smith turned 4 years old Dec. 17, and her mom posted a picture of her on social media. Parents do it all the time, of course, but this birthday girl wasn’t really supposed to be here.

Ashley and Calvin Smith’s second child was almost lost before she was born. But after transferring Ashley and baby’s care to the maternal-fetal medicine team at IU Health, the southern Indiana couple found reason for hope.

Ashley experienced a rare complication called a partial molar pregnancy.

While in a total molar pregnancy, the fetus does not develop at all, in a partial molar, the fetus can develop but typically will be abnormal and doesn’t survive. A partial molar pregnancy with a live fetus occurs in the tiniest fraction of cases.

Enter Hazel Grace.

Born two months early at IU Health Methodist Hospital on Dec. 17, 2019, Hazel was – and is – nothing short of a miracle, her parents believe. She weighed 2 pounds, 6 ounces, but the placenta weighed 4 pounds, nearly three times as much as a typical placenta. Doctors theorized at the time that there was a molar twin that morphed into that abnormal placenta, but Hazel somehow survived.

We first introduced you to Hazel when she was just 2 months old, fragile yet feisty, her nurses said.

After three months at Riley Hospital for Children, she went home for the first time in March 2020.

Since then, she has met every challenge put in front of her – walking, talking, eating, playing and sassing – lots of sassing.

“She is so sassy and wonderful,” her mom said.

And quite intelligent.

She attends preschool, where she knows her letters, numbers and shapes, and she is working on writing her name.

In a Facebook post on her daughter’s birthday, Ashley shared a photo of Hazel in pigtails and cowboy boots, along with this message:

“Four years ago was born a miracle. Four years ago, we were told our baby had a .001% chance of survival outside of the womb. Four years ago, I almost died giving birth. Four years ago, we were blessed with the most intelligent, strong-willed, funny, snuggly child, Hazel Grace.”

It hasn’t been easy. Hazel sees multiple specialists at Riley, including oncology, endocrinology, nephrology and ophthalmology.

She had one of her adrenal glands removed a few weeks ago due to a benign tumor growing on it, but that hasn’t kept her down.

“She’s back to her spunky, playful self since the surgery a month ago,” Ashley said.

On her birthday, the family went to church and a Christmas lunch, where she got to see Santa, but the highlight of her day was blowing out four candles on her birthday cake, her mom said.

The mystery surrounding Hazel’s development in the womb and her continued overachievement outside the womb continues to perplex some doctors, but the Smiths put their faith in God and their daughter’s Riley team.

They also want to offer hope and support to other parents of children with medical challenges.

“There is no one like Hazel that we can find, but it would be nice … to give some other parent some relief from their worries,” Ashley said, “because Hazel is great.”

“She’s the most social, beautiful, perfect little girl.”

Previous stories:

“Babies are miracles, and she is the biggest miracle of all” - The woman’s pregnancy was so rare doctors were baffled, but Ashley and Calvin Smith’s preemie daughter is proving the doubters wrong.

She wasn’t expected to live, but now Hazel goes home - “I’m telling you, if any NICU baby needs some tips, Hazel could give classes.”

Once not expected to survive, baby Hazel is thriving - Now approaching her 2nd birthday, this little miracle child is smart, sassy and social.