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Speedway Miracle Mom Gives Thanks

Katrina Hockenbroch is a Miracle Mom from Etters, Pennsylvania. Her journey as a Miracle Mom came by surprise. Katrina’s son, Zyeke, came into the world five weeks early but as a healthy baby boy.

The week following, Zyeke was rushed to Penn State Children’s Hospital and diagnosed with Neonatal Herpes Simplex. After staying in the hospital’s care for eight weeks Zyeke was released to come home.

At the age of two, Zyeke was transitioned off the treatment he had originally been receiving. Typically, by this age, children have usually developed the necessary antibodies to fight infection, but Zyeke was the one child in a million that had not. Less than two weeks later he was rushed to the hospital again, unresponsive. He was diagnosed with HSV Encephalitis. “We didn’t realize what a journey we would have in the years to come,” Katrina says.

The family spent the next month in Penn State Children’s care. Zyeke was again released from the hospital. He spent just three days at home before returning with more symptoms and complications.

Doctors admitted Zyeke to the hospital very unsure of what was causing Zyeke to become so ill. Shortly after being admitted, Zyeke became catatonic. “His heart rate raced while his arms and legs moved as thought he was riding a bike 200 miles per hour,” recalls Katrina.

Doctors began running numerous tests. Luckily, one of the doctors on Zyeke’s case recognized similar symptoms from a past case she had studied. Zyeke was then tested for Anti NMDAR Encephalitis. After waiting three long weeks test, results finally came back positive and the doctors had their answer.

With this new diagnosis, Zyeke began steroid and IV treatments immediately, both of which did nothing to help. Zyeke started getting worse at an alarming rate. Zyeke’s team of doctors began reaching out for help around the globe. Continuing aggressive treatments seemed to be their last hope for improvement. Starting a new round of infusions over the course of a month’s time finally shed a light on the situation. After the third round of infusions, Zyeke started improving and even showed his bright smile they had missed for so long.

Zyeke spent a total of four months in the hospital before he was released to Penn State Children’s Rehab Hospital. Here, Zyeke completed developmental rehabilitation, relearning milestones such as swallowing, holding his head up and rolling over. Though this process meant lots of change in a short amount of time, Katrina was overjoyed watching Zyeke reach each milestone.

“We continued with speech, feeding, occupational, physical, vision therapies with Zeyke traveling three times a week to Hershey,” Katrina continues. “He really enjoyed the therapies at home with Early Intervention Services. It was such a joy for us to see our little boy slowly have the light come back in his eyes.”

Once he was steadily improving, Zyeke also made his first visit to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHoP). CHoP is the first hospital to discover the Anti NMDAR Encephalitis disease. This visit allowed additional doctors to partner with Zyeke’s team from Penn State Children’s to coordinate additional care for his plan of recovery.

Two and a half years later, Zeyke receives seven therapies a week. His gross motor skills have grown by leaps and bounds and his fine motor skills continue to develop. His vocabulary has grown to around 35 words he uses on a daily basis, along with one multi-word phrase “I get it”. “We are so proud of Zeyke for this as his doctors had thought he would not speak again,” Katrina explains. “His ability to follow direction has started to improve so much just within the last few months. The most exciting thing that has happened since this spring, Zeyke has learned again how to fall asleep in his own bed, by himself!”

The HSV Encephalitis and Anti NMDAR Encephalitis left Zeyke with many challenges in life. Through the love, commitment, dedication and desire of his village, Katrina says, “we will continue to help him grow in life and teach him that for every challenge there is a solution!”

Throughout this journey, Miracle Mom Katrina has been supported by her employer, Speedway. As a General Manager of a Speedway in Etters, Pennsylvania, Katrina feels that working for a company that supports local Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals—just like where Zeyke is treated—means everything to her. One of her most memorable experiences was the first Round Up weekend at her store. Her store set a goal to raise $500. In this same weekend the local CMN hospital spent approximately the same amount of money on Zeyke’s treatments. This experience really hit home for Katrina.

“The support that Speedway shows as a company, and being a recipient of that – it’s amazing,” Katrina concludes.