DOCTORS INLET – Michelle Georges saw her daughter, Hartley, 8, tripping when saying goodbye to a friend and unusually unbalanced during gymnastics. Days later, the Orange Park Elementary third-grader needed to be taken home from school early.
“Her tripping in flip-flops? I never would have thought that’s what it was,” Michelle said. “I thought that was due to they were inexpensive or perhaps too big.”
Michelle took her to a professional soon after, and doctors discovered a brain tumor. Hartley was soon taken to Wolfson Children’s Hospital of Jacksonville. While the tumor was removed in mid-August, Hartley will require further radiation treatments.
“It’s probably the hardest thing I’ve ever dealt with,” Michelle said.
Matt Georges, Hartley’s father, said Beier asked Hartley to name the tumor at the insistence of Dr. Alexandra Beier, her surgeon at Wolfsons. He added Beier listens to music and Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” from the film Rocky II played during surgery.
“(Beier) said, ‘Did you want to name it?’ and Hartley said, ‘Yeah, can we name it Rocky.’ There you have it and Rocky is gone,” Matt Georges said.
Beier stated via email it’s important children have knowledge of their situation because it eases the process.
“Instead of calling a tumor, ‘a tumor,’ I typically tell the child that he or she has a spot and we should name it. The discussion then focuses on removing the spot, i.e. Rocky, and it allows the family, child and myself to freely talk about the lesion without the negative connotations associated with the term ‘tumor,’” said Alexandra Beier, Hartley’s surgeon. “Including the child in the discussion, even about tumors and surgery, builds trust and I feel provides the best care to both the child and the family.”
The Georges family is friends with Yvette Musgrove who works at Yum – A Southern Market on College Drive in Doctors Lake. Since Hartley’s favorite cupcake at the store is strawberry, Musgrove said her business held a cupcake drive and donated proceeds from strawberry cupcake sales to the Georges family.
At Yum – A Southern Market, Hartley and her brother Carter, 6, play checkers and devour popsicles. She doesn’t like to be the center of attention, her parents said.
“We come here a lot of the time,” Hartley said.
Hartley said her favorite things are dogs, her aunts, camping and swimming (she’s proud of going in an 8-foot deep pool). She turns nine later this month. Her school held a prayer for her, churches, multiple Clay County schools and fellow gymnasts from around the world have sent their support.
Musgrove said the store raised thousands of dollars and people have bought hundreds of cupcakes.
“It was awesome. We had folks buying $100 cupcakes. We had phone calls from England and Arizona,” Musgrove said. “People would buy them, take them to police stations and fire stations and take boxes to pass out to neighbors. It was impactful and it was all because of Hartley’s fanclub. It was awesome to watch.”
Follow Hartley’s story on the “OurheartswithHart” Facebook group.