Scarlett’s story: 3-year-old recovers after nearly dying

"She taught us to never give up no matter how grim things look."

Young girl smiling in a blue and white striped dress

Becky Schneider will never forget watching the plane speed off, air-lifting her sick 3-year-old daughter, Scarlett, to Sanford Children’s Hospital in Fargo, North Dakota.

Scarlett had nearly died moments before, and Becky felt helpless, not knowing if she would see her little girl dance or sing again.

“I remember thinking that she just had to make it,” Becky recalled.

A few weeks earlier, Scarlett and the rest of the family seemed to be suffering from a harmless winter cold. But as the rest of the family got better, Scarlett only got worse.

She was diagnosed with pneumonia and admitted to a hospital near the family’s home in Minot, North Dakota. There, Scarlett experienced a pulmonary hemorrhage and went into cardiac arrest. The medical team revived her but knew she urgently needed specialty care only available at Sanford Children’s Fargo. As the region’s only Children’s Miracle Network hospital, Sanford Children’s has the expertise and state-of-the-art equipment to save children’s lives when every second counts.

As Scarlett’s plane raced through the sky, Becky and her husband, Sheldon, followed separately, driving the 250 miles by car.

In a coma for weeks

At Sanford Children’s, Scarlett would spend weeks in a medically induced coma, breathing through a machine in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU). Eventually, she was diagnosed with lupus, an autoimmune disease uncommon in children her age. The pulmonary hemorrhage she suffered as a result was even rarer.

“Scarlett had a lot of bad days in the PICU,” Becky said, recalling all the health complications that nearly stole Scarlett’s life. “We took it day by day and sometimes minute by minute.”

Scarlett’s doctors prescribed an aggressive treatment plan including chemotherapy, which gradually helped weaken the part of her immune system attacking her healthy cells.

By Scarlett’s 100th day in the PICU, she was able to breathe on her own. Slowly but surely, she began to recover.

“She taught us to never give up no matter how grim things look,” Becky said. “If she can come back from such a poor diagnosis, then so many others can overcome the obstacles in their lives.”

Becky still remembers hearing Scarlett calling out her first word, “daddy,” and then taking her first steps in physical therapy after being bed-bound for so long.

“Even when she was in the hospital, her spirit was not broken,” Becky said. “She kept trying to smile even when she was really sick.”

Part of radiothon

Today, the Minot family is celebrating Scarlett’s health. The 3-year-old is happy to be home with her parents, her siblings and the family’s chickens. She has mostly recovered from her time in the PICU, but she will always need treatment to manage her lupus.

“Scarlett definitely has a spunky personality, but she’s also one of the sweetest little girls,” Becky said. “We do not take one single day with Scarlett for granted. We have learned to find joy in the simple moments with Scarlett and her siblings.”

Posted In Children's, Foundation, Health Information, Minot, Specialty Care