Ring Chromosome 18
“I remember when I graduated [BYU], thinking that was really, really hard,” Camille Hammond (BS ’03) says. “But I remember feeling that sense of accomplishment, that I can do hard things.” At the time, the lesson pertained to persevering in academics; grades did not come easily to Hammond. However, knowing she can do hard things has carried Hammond through her own share of difficult life experiences.
One of these challenges came the year after she graduated. Hammond’s oldest child, Emily was born with Ring Chromosome 18, a very rare genetic abnormality. It’s so rare, in fact, that there’s only one research center in the world that specializes in studying that disorder. “We didn’t know if she would ever make it out of the hospital,” Hammond says, “but she did.”
Emily lived longer than they expected, but she eventually passed away at age four. Caring for a child with a number of health problems was hard work, physically and emotionally. As Emily grew, she had 15-20 doctors and endured open heart surgery. Emily was also legally blind and needed a wheelchair to get around. Still, just as Hammond’s BYU journey had both trials and joy, so did Emily’s life. An early miracle came in the form of Hammond’s husband, Robby (BS ’03, MPA ’05), who found a job in San Antonio, Texas: the same place, it so happened, as the research center for Ring Chromosome 18 abnormalities. “[Emily] had the only doctor in the world specific for her abnormality,” Hammond explains.
Emily was also quickly introduced to the Hammond family’s love of BYU sports. “The first outfit that fit her was a BYU onesie,” Hammond recalls, adding that Emily attended Cougar football and basketball games. Emily also learned sign language, with her favorite sign being ‘All done.’ Her four years on earth, while very difficult, also greatly blessed the Hammond family.
How does a family find comfort after the loss of a young child? “We had the world’s [most smiley] 5 month old,” Hammond says fondly. Their young daughter gave Hammond something to focus on and his joyful nature was a blessing in the time of hardship. Hammond also found peace through the gospel, though she adds that it “doesn’t take away how much you miss them.”
While the family has moved forward, they’ve since added two more children to the mix, Emily is still present in their ongoing narrative. “My kids get sad sometimes, they miss her,” Hammond expresses, “We talk about that. It’s okay to be sad.” Of course, sadness is only part of life’s experiences and the Hammond family has had much joy…especially when it comes to BYU sports.
The Hammond children have all undergone a unique rite of passage: they’ve all been woken up during a BYU football game by their father’s cheers. (Now, Hammond says, her husband is no longer allowed to hold babies during BYU games.) Even though they no longer live near BYU, distance has done nothing to lessen the Hammond family’s school spirit. A poster of the 2014 BYU vs. Texas game hangs in their home, and her husband keeps a framed photo of the stadium in his office. Not to mention, as their children grow older, another tradition has emerged: each of the kids (whose ages now range from 9 to 4 years old) switch off accompanying their dad to a football game during the year.
Through the challenges and calm moments, Hammond is happy she learned how to persevere through difficult times. Her advice? Don’t be passive in the face of adversity. “Just [learn] to work hard for everything,” Hammond says, “Work for your testimony, work for what you want to do with your life, work for your family and relationships. I had to do all of that while I was at BYU.”