The Healing Touch of a Pink Hippopotamus

Posted On: Oct 16, 2013

CaptionIf you could give the gift of healing to someone in need, what would it look like? Money? Food?  Clothing?

To Michelle and Pete Dankwerth, that gift came in the form of a children’s book, “Hope the Hip Hippo.”

When their daughter, Abbey, was just a few weeks old, she was diagnosed with congenital hip dysplasia. The special care nursery at their local hospital referred the family to Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare, where they have continued treatment for Abbey’s hip dysplasia ever since. Now 5 ½, Abbey has had a number of special X-rays, surgeries, and hip and leg casts at Gillette.

During Abbey’s journey, her parents struggled with how to talk to her about each surgery and how to respond to her questions. “We wanted to help her understand and cope with the events happening in her life,” Michelle explains. After one of Abbey’s surgeries in January 2013, Michelle stumbled upon “Hope the Hip Hippo” on the Internet. The book chronicles Hope’s journey with hip dysplasia. “I thought it looked interesting, so I bought it,” she says. “Abbey instantly loved it!”

The book represented something very special for Abbey and her parents. “It gave her an understanding of what she was going through and put it in kid’s terms,” Michelle continues. Not only was the book helpful for Abbey, but it helped her parents as well. “While reading with her, it was a way to spark a conversation, see where she was stuck and help her understand,” Michelle says.

Both Michelle and Pete say they appreciate the services they’ve found at Gillette. “From the time we sought treatment at Gillette, we’ve had an outstanding experience,” explains Michelle. “As much as it isn't what you expect when you bring your child into the world, we are thankful for the extended family we have at Gillette.” After the family’s experiences at Gillette, Michelle and Pete wanted to give back because of the support and care they’d received. At first, they weren’t quite sure how to do that. 

Because of how much the book had helped Abbey and their family cope and heal, they decided to donate copies of “Hope the Hip Hippo” to Gillette. Their vision with this donation is that other families whose child has hip dysplasia will take it home and continue to read it and have conversations with their child.

“The book is perfect to help kids like Abbey and often relates to a lot of different parts of her journey. It gave her an understanding of how she fits into this picture,” says Michelle. Starting this year, the family hopes to donate the books to Gillette every year to show their gratitude and to support other Gillette children and families. To learn more about the book, visit: