ATLANTA - Dana Fowle shared a heartwarming message on Facebook this week about her daughter's brave decision to show off her hearing aid and large, red birthmark at school.
Dana's 7-year-old daughter Leo Rose was born with a hemangioma. It's a vascular tumor that traveled through her brain and down her airway.
When Leo Rose was just three weeks old, doctors told Dana and her husband David that Leo Rose's hemangioma would possibly cause her to be blind and suffer serious brain damage. Fortunately, it stopped short of that. But, as hemangiomas do, it stopped growing then reversed itself, and when it did it took some of Leo Rose's ear bones with it.
In kindergarten, she got fitted for a hearing aid. And, Leo Rose had a choice: She could get laser surgery to reduce the appearance of the hemangioma, which covers one ear and wraps around her neck. She said no.
"This is who I am, mommy," Dana recalls.
Dana says Leo Rose was still embarrassed by it, but this week she made a very grown up and brave decision.
"The kiddo has always been quite a tomboy eschewing things like pigtails," Dana Fowle said on her Facebook page. "Or so we thought. She admitted she really wanted to wear them, but she was too embarrassed."
Well, this week, she went for it.
A family friend who watched Leo Rose walk to school on Tuesday said that she walked slowly, paused at her classroom door, took a deep breath, then "she went in and looked so brave."
Leo Rose never expected anyone to make fun of her, but she also didn't expect the outpouring of support from her classmates.
"Her teacher spontaneously put her hair in pigtails," Dana posted.
The next day, Leo Rose's classmates wore pigtails, and all week other children have been walking into her classroom in pigtails in solidarity.
“The energy in our classroom is something I can’t explain with words," Leo Rose's first grade teacher Ms. Patricia Derrico told Dana Thursday morning. "Three boys had come to the idea to wear ties as they can’t do pigtails."
Ms. Derrico said she's going to make every Tuesday until the end of the year "Pigtail/Bowtie Tuesday."
"This is less a story about my daughter, who would have eventually come to terms with her situation, than it is about her classmates and her teacher. My heart is so full," said her mother.