top of page

Ted & Christie Pinney describe their daughter, Tatum, as a girl with a brave heart. 


At Tatum’s four-week checkup, her pediatrician heard a murmur in that brave heart. She was sent to Arkansas Children’s Cardiology Clinic for tests, where physicians diagnosed Tatum with a bicuspid aortic valve with stenosis.  The cardiologists did not recommend surgery until Tatum was 6 years of age, when she underwent a valvuloplasty procedure.  This provided relief until 2017. At the age of 8, Tatum underwent an open heart surgery to replace both of her heart valves.


“My initial reaction was fear—no one in our family has heart problems,” says Christie.  “After many conversations with God, doctors and friends who have had health challenges with their kids, my husband & I made the decision to have Tatum’s surgery at Arkansas Children’s.”


Ted & Christie’s fear was soon replaced by “peace, comfort & confidence knowing Tatum has the doctors & nurses at Arkansas Children’s taking care of her health.”  They are also thankful that Arkansas Children’s is within close driving distance to the Pinney home.  “We are so fortunate to have such an amazing hospital right in our backyard!” 


As a volunteer member of the Committee for the Future for seven years, a good deal of Christie’s time was spent fundraising for Arkansas Children’s.  “I never knew when I started working with CFF that we’d become part of the Arkansas Children’s family—this was before Tatum was born,” she says.


Christie singles out Arkansas Children’s cardiologist Dr. Paul Sieb as their go-to doctor.  “He has been Tatum's cardiologist since the beginning. We are very thankful for Dr. Sieb; his light shines bright and we are blessed because of it!”  Tatum’s favorite nurse?  That would be Nurse Megan, who was “her first nurse out of her first open heart surgery.  Megan gave us all comfort, was incredibly knowledgeable & uplifting and very dependable & trustworthy.”


Thanks to donors like you, your generosity provided peace of mind to the Pinney family.


Tatum’s heart appears to be thriving and allows her to participate in her favorite pastimes, such as tumbling (back handsprings & back flips), volleyball, arts & crafts, and playing outside with her friends.  Christie says that Tatum envisions a future career in either veterinary medicine or volleyball. 


“She has such a light that is completely infectious!  She is compassionate, competitive & caring,” says Christie.  “Imagine a roller coaster—most people have their hands holding on to the rail tightly in fear.  Tatum is the one with her hands high in the air, screaming with joy and excitement!”


Asked to sum up the Pinney family’s experience with Tatum’s health challenges, Christie expresses a spiritually resilient approach: “’FAITH, NOT FEAR’ has become our family's mantra.” 


That kind of faith is rewarded when donors like you make it possible for Tatum to keep her brave heart beating.

By Kyran Pittman

When the fifth doctor in five months to examine two-year-old Kaylynn Sands told Anne Marie and John Sands that the knot on the side of their daughter’s neck was “probably” nothing to be concerned about and that he would just leave it alone, no one would have blamed them for adopting the adage “no news is good news” and letting the matter drop there. But the Sands weren’t satisfied with “probably.”

“There were constant appointments and no real answers,” says Anne Marie, recalling her frustration. “When we left each visit, we don’t know what was the next step.”

Their pediatrician encouraged them to get one more opinion, this time from Arkansas Children’s Hospital ENT specialist Dr. Richter. Anne Marie recalls her gratitude at finding someone who was as determined as she was to get answers.

“As soon as he walked in and saw her, he put together a plan of action, with surgery scheduled for the following week,” she remembers.  After months of doctors saying, “we don’t know,” it was such a relief to find someone who was being proactive.

“There was no clear guidance until we saw Dr. Richter. He was so confident, and so clear in his decision, it put us at ease.”

In surgery, it was discovered that the mass was wrapped around critical nerves and blood vessels. A biopsy revealed it was a form of cancer--ganglioneuroblastoma. Kaylynn started a plan of treatment with oncologist, Dr. Mian, and when scans after several months of chemo showed no shrinkage of the tumor, the family was referred to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where it was finally removed. But the Sands credit Dr. Richter and Arkansas Children’s with launching Kaylynn on the road to recovery. “Dr. Richter has a special place in our hearts.  We trust him completely.”

Anne Marie says she always knew ACH was a special place. She even helped fundraise for it with her sorority. “I always had a good feeling about it,” she says. “But there was no way I could understand how awesome it is until my own child was there.

One special memory of their time there was when a nurse read a funny book from memory to Kaylynn to keep her distracted during a painful procedure. “She went above and beyond. The entire staff was always friendly and welcoming and took care of us. We felt at home there.”

Kaylynn is on the downhill slope of her journey, Anne Marie reports, but they still make follow up visits to ACH every couple of months, from their home in Magnolia. The experience has been formative for the five-year-old, whom her mother describes as “sassy.” “We talk a lot about service and helping others because so many people helped us. We do fundraising and volunteer work together, and she comes to every meeting and every event,” says Ann Marie.

“Her journey with the illness may be coming to a close but her journey with the experience will last a lifetime. She shines her light everywhere she goes.”

bottom of page