Two moms share unexpected, powerful bond

This is the story of two Olivias, both fighting medical conditons. And how one Olivia's mother gave something special to the other Olivia's mom.

Olivia Hanson, just six years old, fell severely ill last summer. It started with a fever and a cough, but within days she was paralyzed, unable to even lift her head. She even ended up on a ventilator.

Olivia spent four weeks at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital and nine weeks at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital. She was eventually diagnosed with acute flaccid myelitis. But her mom, Alecia Hanson, says her daughter has been positive through it all. 

"She says, ‘I will get better.’ She continues to try, even when she's tired."

The other Olivia is 12-year-old Olivia Shemes, fighting her own battle. She was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy when she was younger, and she depends on others for all of her care. Her mom, Lisa Yerkes, says Olivia spent the first three years of her life at the hospital.

Lisa says the hardest part is not knowing what the next day will bring and not knowing what the future will hold. That’s why she sought out a way to give to other moms who know that uncertainty all too well.

For 10 years now, Lisa, a hairstylist, has been doing “Mom Makeovers,” caring for the caregiver. This year, she gave a makeover to the other Olivia’s mom, Alecia. As these two moms met for the first time, it was powerful to watch the instant bond they shared. It was one filled with hope and strength and a strong message we all could learn from.

"Just when you think your life is hard, or you've been through such a traumatic experience, there's always someone out there who is going through it, just like you were," Lisa said.

"People ask and say, ‘How do you stay so positive?’" Alecia said. “My faith has become a lot stronger, but when you dwell on ‘Why me’ or ‘This isn't fair,’ you get negative, and it's a dark place where I don't want to be.”

"When you have a sick child, your priorities and thinking of life and what could really be bad, kind of sinks in."

It's exactly why Lisa says it's so important to find time to give back, no matter what you’re going through.

"Sometimes I think it just humbles you," Lisa said. “Sometimes we can just feel like we have so much going on we just can't do good for other people. But it actually brings you down to a level where you always have time to do good for other people.”

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