Naomi Hawks will be missed at the Children’s Hospital and Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska, after spending the first 650 days of her life there.
After being one of the hospital’s longest-staying inpatients, Naomi was released from the hospital on Tuesday, Aug. 29, reported ABC affiliate KETV.
“She’s amazing,” Mandy Hawks, Naomi’s mother, told the outlet. “She’s taught me what it means to be brave.”
Naomi and her twin sister, Hannah, were born prematurely. Naomi was born with a rare birth defect called omphalocele that causes the abdominal wall to form incompletely, resulting in the bowel, liver and/or other abdominal organs to protrude from the body.
Naomi’s lungs were also too small for her body, which is a common problem in babies born with an omphalocele.
Her doctors didn’t expect her to survive past one year.
Despite numerous brushes with death though, she’s pulled through with the support of her loving family.
Parents Vince and Mandy Hawks have visited her in the hospital every day over the last 21 months. Despite the challenges, the family was able to adjust their schedules so that they could be there to support Naomi. With only one car, Mandy would drive her husband to work before driving with Hannah to the hospital.
“We come up here and I usually do Naomi’s dressing on her omphalocele in the morning, get her dressed, get her teeth brushed, hair brushed and then the girls play and I hang out,” Mandy told to KETV.
Then Mandy and Hannah would leave the hospital to pick up Vince from work. One of the parents would then go to the hospital to put Naomi to bed.
On Tuesday, with her breathing ventilator still hooked up through an implanted trach, Naomi went for a victory walk through the hospital.
“She’s got a testimony that is just going to blow people away,” said Mandy. “Her life is already a legacy, I think.”
Naomi still has some hurdles ahead of her. Doctors say that before any work can be done to fix her omphalocele, her lungs need to develop and be stronger.
They expect that they will have to wait until Naomi is 3 years old before this will be possible, after which it could take years to completely fix.
“[She] definitely [has] a bright future and we’re just going to keep continuing to do what needs to be done to keep her healthy and get her stronger,” Mandy said.
For now, the family, enjoying their new-found freedom, is still overwhelmed that they will all be living under one roof.
“It kind of hasn’t sunk in yet,” Mandy said.