Honorary Police Officer

Anna Rhone was born 12-years ago. Her parents Heather and Steven were excited to welcome her into the world. Their arms were ready to hold her, along with their two-year-old toddler Evelyn. The family lived in the Texas countryside, just outside the DFW Metroplex boundaries. It was a wonderful space for kids to grow up, and everything was wonderfully normal.
Suddenly, when Anna was nine, everything changed.
“About 85% of her skin turned into something that looked like leather,” Heather said. “It was brown and looked tough and tight. It was almost as if her skin was shrinking. She couldn’t straighten her arms, legs, or fingers and she was in horrible pain. Her joints were close to immobile. She broke out in lesions.”
The family began the emotionally debilitating journey from doctor to doctor, pushing through the doors of one hospital and then another. Both Evelyn and Anna are home-schooled so, at least, there was no outside school disruption.
Finally, after six months of hellish testing, Anna was referred to a rheumatologist at Cook Children’s Hospital. She was diagnosed with Systemic Sclerosis, a rare and painful auto-immune disease. The baseline culprit is the over-production of collagen. The result is the skin tightens, while joints and internal organs form abnormalities.
Currently, there is no cure for the condition but there is an aggressive treatment protocol, including physical and occupational therapy, a monthly infusion that lasts for six hours, and a weekly chemotherapy injection. The treatment continues for life, or until a cure is found.
Through it all, it’s been difficult to determine which is rarer: the Systemic Sclerosis or Anna’s reaction and attitude to the disease. She’s mustered up a reservoir of internal sunshine from somewhere.
“I don’t have a lot of pain now,” Anna said matter-of-factly. “I couldn’t sit down or ride my bike when it started, and the pain was intense. My therapy sessions stopped about a year ago.
“I’ve had some incredible experiences because of this disease, wonderful things that wouldn’t have happened without it. And I’ve met tons of great people.
“Cook Hospital named me its patient ambassador. I told my story at fundraisers and other functions. One day they said they were running low on coloring books, and I decided to help. Mom put an announcement on Facebook, and people filled our porch with coloring books, crayons, and money.”
By this time, the Rhone family had moved from their country home to Pecan Square in Northlake, closer to family support.
“This year I was named the ambassador for the Children’s Miracle Network. I love to paint landscapes and animals. It helps to calm me if I get anxious about something. I painted a horse to put on the backs of T-shirts, and I sell my paintings to raise funds for various projects.
“I’ve always loved everything about Disney, and a Wish With Wings sent me and my family to Disney World. I don’t think I missed even one ride! I’ve also been a part of the A Cast for Kids Foundation. They sponsor fishing events
for kids.”
“I know none of this would have happened if I’d been just ‘normal’!”
“A lot of people know I dream of being a police officer,” she said. “My mom attended a class taught by Det. Lisa Perea of the Northlake Police Department. Lisa was going through cancer treatment, and Mom told her about me.”
“Heather told me Anna did a painting of a police car for Chief Crawford,” said Perea. “We decided we needed our first honorary police officer. We had an exact replica uniform made for Anna with Badge 33, her favorite number.”
Everything was a strict secret until the induction ceremony at Pecan Square.
“I was so surprised,” Anna said. “All these people were there for my swearing-in. Lisa and I are best friends, and she even keeps a best friends journal for us. I know the Chief and most of the officers and I visit the station.”
“The Pecan Square community is extremely supportive of the police,” Perea said. “They are also 100 percent supportive of Anna.”
Being happy and positive and grateful are all things Anna has mastered; something she may not have done had she been just a “normal” little girl.

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