'All in God's Timing:' 2023 CMN Miracle Child Hannah Harlow overcomes rare genetic condition and set to light Tyler's Christmas tree

‘All in God’s Timing:’ 2023 CMN Miracle Child Hannah Harlow overcomes rare genetic condition and set to light Tyler’s Christmas tree

“It was like God brought us together,” Dr. Ana Gutierrez Alvarez said of meeting and helping with Hannah Harlow’s diagnosis. “It was basically a miracle.”

TYLER, Texas — Hannah Harlow loves dressing up in princess dresses, dancing, tumbling, and just being a happy 3-year-old.

She is beyond excited to be the 2023 Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Miracle Child and light up the town of Tyler’s Christmas Tree in the annual Christmas Parade this Thursday.

On Tuesday morning, Hannah was revealed as next year’s miracle child alongside her parents, Christus Trinity Mother Frances system officials and CMN leaders. The Miracle Child lighting up the tree has been an annual tradition since 1987.

But looking at her now, no one would ever know that her health journey was a miracle, all in God’s time.

Her parents, Tabitha and BJ Harlow, from Canton, said she was a healthy baby and was reaching her milestones, but when she was around 1, she was not walking and crying when she stopped on things.

They then noticed her legs bowing in August 2020. They were eventually referred to a pediatric endocrinologist at Christus Trinity Clinic, where they met Dr. Ana Gutierrez Alvarez.

Alvarez had just completed a fellowship at New York University, where she studied a rare genetic condition called X-linked hypophosphatemic rickets (XLH).

She met Hannah the week after moving to Tyler. After genetic testing, blood work and x-rays, Hannah was diagnosed with XLH rickets, a disease that prevents the body from producing or retaining phosphorus.

“It felt like God brought us together,” Alvarez said. “It was basically a miracle.”

Children who do not receive treatment for XLH rickets live in pain, are stunted and struggle with fractures and mobility. Due to the fragility of the bones, children must be careful with physical activities.

“I was scared and upset for her because I thought that meant she wasn’t going to do all the things kids normally do,” Tabitha Harlow said. “But Dr. Alvarez was very quick to make sure we can manage this (and) we can treat it with special medicine.”

Alvarez said she believes “God, basically put Hannah in (her) clinic,” and she’s happy to see that the drugs, which became available in 2018, have helped the young girl.

“Last time I saw her in the clinic two months ago, after being on medication for two years, she was wearing heels. She was wearing a princess dress,” Alvarez said. “Her legs were no longer abnormal. They were straight and just growing. So when I see that, I see a miracle.”

Alvarez said without the treatment, Hannah would regress and her condition would worsen. She added that Hannah is one of the few cases in the world to have the disease due to a genetic mutation, meaning no other family members have it.

Since starting this treatment, Hannah has become a completely different child and has been able to enjoy activities like running, playing and jumping. Now she is taking ballet and dance lessons.

“It was definitely all in God’s timing because if we had pushed and pushed anything was wrong before Dr. Alvarez came to Texas,” Tabitha said. “I know we have very good endocrinologists here. But I don’t know if they would have known immediately.”

Tabitha added that she and her husband know that God has brought their family and Alvarez together in the right place at the right time.

As the time draws near for Hannah to light the tree, her mom added that she’s super excited to be in the parade.

“She picked out a special dress and jewelry. She can’t wait to be the princess of the parade. And she knows she can turn on all the Christmas lights on the Christmas tree,” Tabitha said.

Tabitha added that she hopes Hannah’s new role can raise awareness about XLH rickets.

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