Hope Hudson, the frail 12-year-old Missouri girl who touched so many hearts during this year's Triple Crown after the Make A Wish Foundation and Three Chimneys Farm arranged for her to come to the Kentucky Derby, is scheduled to undergo major surgery Wednesday in St. Louis. She suffers from the extremely rare connective tissue disorder, Hajdu-Cheney syndrome, a condition that affects bones and growth for which there is no known cure. Hope, who weighs just 60 pounds, has undergone at least nine previous surgeries to treat the symptoms of Hajdu-Cheney.
(The surgery was originally to be done today but was postponed 48 hours.)
The Paulick Report was made aware of Hope's scheduled surgery by Dennis O'Neill, brother of trainer Doug O'Neill, who bonded with the young girl through the ups and downs of I'll Have Another's run through the Triple Crown. Hope came to Kentucky with hopes that her favorite horse, Hansen, would be victorious, but ultimately became I'll Have Another's biggest fan, visiting the son of Flower Alley at Churchill Downs, Pimlico, and Belmont Park, where his bid for history ended with an injury one day before the Belmont Stakes.
“She is the nicest girl and had the greatest attitude for what she is going through,” Dennis O'Neill said. “I really believe she was what kept Doug going. He was constantly talking to her and visiting her. I think it really put into perspective what is important and how trivial his problems were. The scene in the Derby winner's circle and press conference were priceless; she was so excited about I'll Have Another.
“I just wanted people to not forget her, especially (Wednesday),” he added. “She can use all the prayers and well wishes we can give.”
Doug O'Neill was scheduled to take an overnight flight to St. Louis to be with Hope and her family on Monday, but postponed his visit until after the surgery.
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