Payton, 9, is a self-taught gymnast. Her life is full of laughter and activity, but it’s also been full of challenges.

She was born weighing 1.5 pounds when her mother, Tamica, was 24 weeks pregnant. Neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) doctors at the hospital where Payton was born suspected she had necrotizing enterocolitis, a dangerous disease that affects the intestines of premature infants. She was rushed to Children’s National Hospital and needed two gastrointestinal surgeries within two days.

Doctors diagnosed Payton with bronchopulmonary dysplasia, which required a series of lung treatments. A few weeks later, she had a successful heart surgery. In her lifetime, Payton has had 24 procedures and 7 surgeries, in specialties such as gastroentology, pulmonology and dental surgery, to correct conditions related to her premature birth.

Care providers like Tara Floyd, our director of neonatal and pediatric intensive care nursing, have played a big role in Payton’s life. “Tara has been there from the beginning, supporting us in amazing ways from checking on me when I felt like I was in a tornado to helping get us through surgeries to save my baby’s life,” Tamica says. “Without Children’s National, I would not have the energetic, feisty, resilient and strong girl that Payton is today.”

A young patient at Children's National Hospital.

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A young patient at Children's National Hospital.