By ANGELINE JANE BERNABE and DOUG VOLLMAYER, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — At just 13 years old, Kyree Beachem has already been through so much in her young life.
When she was born, doctors diagnosed Kyree with Hirschsprung’s disease, a rare intestinal disease, and ever since she has spent her life in and out of the hospital.
“I was pretty sick,” Kyree told ABC News’ Good Morning America. “I couldn’t do a lot of stuff, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t drink, I couldn’t swim, I couldn’t ride a bike… I couldn’t do the stuff that normal kids did.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, Hirschprung’s disease is a “condition that affects the large intestine.” The condition is present at birth due to missing nerve cells in the muscles of the baby’s colon, making it difficult to digest food.
“Whenever she would try to eat or want to eat, she would have significant abdominal pain, significant belly pain,” said George Mazariegos, MD, the chief of pediatric transplantation at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.
Kyree, who is among five adopted kids in her family of 10, had her first organ transplant at 3 years old, but unfortunately, her body rejected it. So while awaiting another, she received her nutrition through an IV, which was hidden away in a pink backpack that she carried around, since she had to be hooked up to the IV for 22 hours a day.
And because she was so sick, Kyree missed many milestones and events: birthdays, holidays and family gatherings.
“It was probably one of the scariest times of our life,” said Kyree’s mother, Nan Beachem, who recalled how difficult that time was for their family. “Every trip back and forth to the hospital was scary because we knew that we were losing her.”
Finally in December 2015, just before Christmas, Kyree underwent a quadruple organ transplant to receive a new liver, pancreas and small and large intestines.
“If she hadn’t gotten the transplant, she wouldn’t be here at 13 years old and smiling,” said Nan Beachem. “She could finally go to the beach without worrying about getting sand around the dressing. It opened up a whole world to her.”
While Kyree’s transplant was successful and things were going well for a few years, she’s currently experiencing organ rejection again.
She’ll also be on medication her entire life. Among other things, she’s taking a low-dose steroid that’s caused her face to swell. Occasionally, her ailments require her to be hospitalized.
Still through it all, Kyree continues to stay positive. During her hospital visits, she’s described by hospital staff as sweet, kind, charming and sassy.
“Kyree is one of the most incredible little girls I’ve ever met,” said Kory Antonacci, CEAT program coordinator at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. “She truly lights up the room the minute she walks in.”
“She is the patient that even if the nurses aren’t assigned to her, they will go and visit with her because they love her so much,” added Stace Cote, unit director of the 7B Transplant Intestinal Care Unit at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.
Because of the impact that hospital staff and doctors have made on her life, Kyree said she hopes to follow in their footsteps and become a nurse one day, to help other people in need.
“If people are crying or sad or they’re not feeling good, I try to smile to make them feel better,” said Kyree. “And people say that makes their day sometimes.”
Because of her positive spirit, GMA’s TJ Holmes surprised Kyree with a Halloween party during what she thought was a routine “virtual” appointment with her doctor from the hospital.
Her favorite singer, Kelsea Ballerini, also popped in to deliver a special message.
“It’s been forever since I’ve seen you and I hope you’re doing well,” Ballerini told the 13-year-old. “I’m always thinking of you and wishing you well and your sweet mama, give her a hug for me. I’m just sending you so much love, and hopefully I’ll get to see you super soon.”
Kyree responded to the big surprise Friday, live on GMA.
“I love it,” she said via video chat. “Thank you.”
GMA also surprised all 300 children in the hospital with a gift card in Kyree’s honor, since it’s Kyree’s wish that every single kid in the hospital can enjoy the holiday season.
Nestle was so inspired by Kyree’s story that the company also gifted the hospital $15,000.
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