Sophie’s Story

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Our youngest daughter, Sophia Grace Meinhardt, was born on February 26, 2005. She was welcomed into this world three weeks early by her loving older sisters Olivia, Madeline, and Mia. Sophie was a very energetic child and a determined little girl.

In August of 2006, our family took our annual vacation to Hilton Head. While on vacation, Sophie became sick. After being seen at Urgent Care, in an ER, and finally a pediatrician, her diagnosis was an ear infection (which we learned she never had) and then an upper GI infection. Her vomiting finally stopped but by Friday August 18, 2006 we noticed that she wasn’t fully using her left side. We returned to the pediatrician who ultimately sent us by ambulance to the nearest pediatric hospital, which was in Savannah.


On August 18, 2006, Sophie was diagnosed with a Brain Tumor. She was medically airlifted back home to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center on August 19. On August 21, Sophie under went surgery to remove the brain tumor. While in surgery, Sophie died. We buried her on her 18-month birthday, which was August 26, 2006.

After Sophie died, we met with her surgeons and other doctors at CCHMC. We learned that Sophie had developed a rare and aggressive brain tumor known as an Atypical Teratoid / Rhabdoid Tumor (ATRT). This tumor grew rapidly within 1-2 months and the only symptom Sophie had was vomiting. Our strong Sophie defied the odds by not showing any other symptoms sooner; she probably knew it was going to slow her down and she didn’t want that to happen! Even if Sophie had survived the surgery, she ultimately would have died from this brain tumor, as it would have started to grow back immediately. There are currently no effective treatments or cures for this type of brain tumor in children Sophie’s age. Nor are there any known causes.

As parents, we became determined to do whatever we could to prevent other families from suffering from this devastating diagnosis. So we have planned a memorial 5K walk/run in Sophie’s honor called “Sophie’s
sophie-pic3Angel Run” with the proceeds benefiting Brain Tumor Research at CCHMC and scholarships at St. Jude School where Sophie would have gone to school.

Sophie’s diagnosis and death were a tragedy. However, Sophie’s 18 months of life on earth were not. Immediately after Sophie died it was so important for us to not only let everyone know what happened but to also celebrate her life. Anyone that knew Sophie knew she was full of life. Sophie never stopped moving during her 18 months on earth. One of her favorite things to do was to ride in the double jogging stroller with her big sister Mia while their Daddy ran. Sophie was a happy little girl who was loved every minute of every day.

Words cannot describe what it felt like when the doctors told us that Sophie had a brain tumor. Knowing now that there was nothing that could have been done to save her life is devastating. No parent should have to go through what we went through and certainly no child should have to suffer from this disease. The only way to end this disease is to support research to find treatments and hopefully one day to find a cure.

On Sophie’s headstone we had the following words inscribed: “If we could sit across the porch from God we would thank him for lending us you.” We will forever be grateful that God chose us for Sophie’s Family.

-Mark & Missy Meinhardt