Birthday surprise for 9-year-old Ana near life's end

8:12 AM, Feb 24, 2012   |    comments
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  • Ana, sitting on the family's couch
  • Ana, feeding a goat
  • Ana Hardt
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  • LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. -- "God gave her to us a different way," Ana Hardt's mother Diana said.

    She and her husband Chuck adopted Ana from Guatemala when was she was 2 years old.

    "She loves to read; she loves schoolwork," Diana said. 

    Raised with her big brother Nic and little sister Abby, Ana was blissfully typical.

    "None of them like to clean," Chuck joked.

    But everything changed 18 months ago.

    MORE | Leave your thoughts of encouragement for Ana and the Hardt family here

    "She had been limping a week or so beforehand," Chuck said. 

    The diagnosis of an inoperable brain tumor sitting on her brain stem left little room for hope.

    "Either they told us that day or the next day that only 10 percent of the kids will survive that," Chuch remembered.

    The Hardts clung to that 10 percent.

    "I thought she was going to beat it," Diana said.

    Ana endured daily chemo, radiation -- so much.

    "Ana will cry about a lot of things, but you can jab her with these needles and what not and she just takes it," Chuck said.

    But it didn't work, and last week the Hardts made the excruciating decision to end treatment.

    "You get to a point where you realize nothing is working anymore. There's not going to be anything to cure her afterall. She's not going to make it. And so you have to come to the realization you need to stop torturing your child and just let her be," Diana said.

    The Hardts know the reality they're facing. And so does Ana. Sitting cross legged on her couch in her pink pajamas, under a cow patterned blanket, she began to cry.

    "What's wrong?" her mother asked.

    "I'm scared," Ana answered. 

    This sweet girl who loved school more than summer has had a stuffed companion since she was adopted. "Vaca," she said holding out a stuffed cow.

    Vaca the cow has been with Ana through everything. Her love of cows extends all the way to her fingertips painted with cow designs. She loves all animals.

    Ana just turned 9 years old and she deserves something extraordinary. So The Brain Tumor Foundation for Children reached out to Barnyard Friends and Cagles Dairy, and asked for a rather large, lively favor.

    Chuck carried Ana out the front door and sat her down in her wheelchair. "What's out here? What do you see?"

    Ana pointed and exclaimed, "A goat. A baby cow. A doggie."

    Ana's front lawn had been transformed into her personal petting zoo. She gave a bottle to a baby cow, and it licked her fingers to a slimy mess. She held chickens and puppies in her lap, gave food to sheep and an apple to a goat.

    Paralysis in her face prevents Ana from smiling anymore. "But you'll know when she's happy," her dad said.

    Today, Ana was happy. And that's all her parents want for her, anymore.

    "Anything to bring joy to her these last few days means a lot to us because she's brought a lot of joy to our lives and she's just a child," Diana said. "We don't want to see her hurting anymore. Just be happy." 

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