Nine year-old Owen Zeager of Palmyra will be featured in the 36th Annual Children’s Miracle Network Telethon, which starts today and is being televised locally on WGAL-TV, Channel 8.
He’s earned a spot on TV not because he’s a healthy third grader who loves to play hockey and follow the Hershey Bears, but because of what he’s overcome with the help of his parents, Devin and Christi, and the folks at Hershey’s Penn State Children’s Hospital, since being born 14 weeks prematurely with a host of medical problems.
Owen weighed barely a pound and a half at birth and was plagued by chronic lung disease, gall stones, an under-developed immune system, one functioning kidney, ear infections, hernias, and an inability to straighten flexed fingers, known as “trigger finger.”
He spent his first 199 days in the hospital.
Most worrisome was a life-threatening intestinal condition known as necrotizing enterocolitis, a bacterial infection that kills colon tissue. Surgeons removed almost a foot of dead colon, leaving Owen unable to eat solid food until he was four years old.
Once he could, he literally had to learn how to use his tongue, jaw, and throat to chew and swallow.
“He was a very, very, determined kid,” said Owen’s mom, Christi. “He started with a cake sprinkle. Just learning how to put it on his tongue and then move it to his teeth and crunch it. I think that’s where he gets his determination.”
Owen’s journey from “preemie” to healthy, active nine year-old is the inspiration for this year’s fundraising t-shirt, which says “10 SURGERIES, 199+ DAYS, 7 SPECIALISTS.”
You can watch a video about Owen here.
Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, founded in 1983, is a non-profit organization that raises funds for a network of 170 children’s hospitals throughout the U.S. and Canada, medical research, and community awareness of children’s health issues.
The annual telethon is normally held in the first week of June, but was postponed this year due to COVID-19.
Penn State Children’s Hospital in Hershey, a CMN member, is the only children’s hospital between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia fully equipped to treat the most severely ill children of central Pennsylvania.
36th Annual Children’s Miracle Network Telethon
WHEN & WHERE: Mon. Aug. 31 through Thurs. Sept. 3, WGAL-TV 8
HOW TO DONATE: Go to this link and click on “DONATE”