Ashley, at 15, couldn’t shake the cold she’d had for months. After she almost passed out during a high school dance practice, her mom took her to the pediatrician. Ashley had a high fever and low blood pressure.

An emergency room doctor diagnosed her with bilateral pneumonia. Things got worse. “I had sharp back pain and my fever spiked,” she says. “I was confused and scared. An ambulance rushed me to Children’s National Hospital.”

Staff in our Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) reassured Ashley that she would be OK. In addition to pneumonia, she had a life-threatening bacterial infection. Her body was in septic shock. More than half of children with this condition die. “My parents always recall how the doctors and nurses in the PICU understood that my life was in their hands,” Ashley says. “They saved my life, but it wouldn’t be the last time."

She was in the hospital for 9 days. Two weeks later, she was back with a dangerously high fever. “The nurses and doctors worked tirelessly to save my life, again,” Ashley says. “They even laid me on a freezing pad to try and break the fever.” This time, she went home after 8 days.

Ashley went on to study at the University of Maryland, where she joined TerpThon, a dance marathon that raises money each year for Children’s National. Seven years after graduation, she still loves dance marathons and helping to save the lives of other children.

A young patient at Children's National Hospital.

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A young patient at Children's National Hospital.