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'All in God's Timing:' 2023 CMN Miracle Child Hannah Harlow overcomes rare genetic condition, set to light Tyler's Christmas tree

"It was like God put us together," Dr. Ana Gutierrez Alvarez said of meeting and helping diagnose Hannah Harlow. "It was basically a miracle."

TYLER, Texas — Hannah Harlow loves dressing up in princess dresses, dancing, tumbling and a simply being a happy 3-year-old kid. 

She's beyond excited to be the 2023 Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Miracle Child and light the city of Tyler’s Christmas Tree during the annual Christmas Parade this Thursday. 

On Tuesday morning, Hannah was revealed as next year's Miracle Child alongside her parents, Christus Trinity Mother Frances System officials and CMN leaders. The Miracle Child lighting the tree has been an annual tradition since 1987.

Looking at her now, no one would ever know that her health journey was a miracle all in God's timing.

Her parents, Tabitha and BJ Harlow, of Canton, said she was a healthy baby and reaching her milestones, but when she was around 1 years old, she wasn't walking and would cry when she pulled up on things.

They later noticed her legs were bowing in August 2020. They were eventually referred to a pediatric endocrinologist in the Christus Trinity Clinic, where they met Dr. Ana Gutierrez Alvarez.

Alvarez had just completed a fellowship at New York University, where she studied a rare genetic condition called X-Linked Hypophosphatemic (XLH) Rickets. 

Credit: CBS19

She met Hannah the week after she moved to Tyler. Following some genetic testing, bloodwork and X-rays, Hannah was diagnosed with XLH Rickets, which is a condition making the body not produce or retain phosphorous. 

"It was like God put us together," Alvarez said. "It was basically a miracle."

Children who don't receive treatment for XLH Rickets live in pain, have stunted growth and struggle with broken bones and mobility. Because of brittle bones, kids have to be careful with physical activities.

"I was scared and upset for her because I thought it meant that she wasn't going to get to do all the regular things kids do," Tabitha Harlow said. "But Dr. Alvarez was very quick to assure us we can handle this (and) we can treat it with special medicine."

Alvarez said she believes "God, basically put Hannah in (her) clinic," and she's happy to see the medication, which became available in 2018, helped the young girl. 

"Last time I saw her in the clinic two months ago, after being on the medication for two years, she was wearing heels. She was wearing a princess dress," Alvarez said. "Her legs were not abnormal anymore. They were straight and just growing. So when I see this, I see a miracle."

Alvarez said without the treatment, Hannah would regress and her condition would worsen.  She added that Hannah is one of the few cases in the world that has the disease because of a genetic mutation, meaning no other family members have it.

Since starting that treatment, Hannah has become a completely different kid and she's able to enjoy activities like running, playing and jumping. Now, she's in ballet and dance classes. 

Credit: CBS19

"It was definitely all in God's timing, because had we pushed and pushed that something wasn't right before Dr. Alvarez came to Texas," Tabitha said. "I know we have really good endocrinologists here. But I don't know if the they would have known immediately."

Tabitha added that she and her husband know God put their family and Alvarez together in the right place and at the right time. 

As the time draws near for Hannah to light the tree, her mom added she's super excited to be in the parade. 

"She's picked out special dress and jewelry. She can't wait to be the princess in the parade. And she knows that she gets to turn on all the Christmas lights on the Christmas tree," Tabitha said.

Tabitha added she hopes Hannah's new role can raise awareness about XLH Rickets. 

Credit: CBS19

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