Young girl’s drowning brings awareness to rare disorder

Young girl's drowning brings awareness to rare disorder (Image 1)

BRENTWOOD, Tenn. – The drowning of a 10-year-old girl on Labor Day is bringing attention to a rare disorder that may have played a role in her death.

Elizabeth Hathaway, who suffered from Angelman Syndrome, was last seen Monday morning sitting on the edge of her family's house boat on Center Hill Lake.

Crews recovered her body from the water just after 6 p.m. that evening.

Regie Hamm is a family friend of Hathaways and is the founder of the Angel Wings Foundation, which brings awareness to the rare genetic disorder that his daughter also suffers from.

“We hadn't heard about [Angelman Syndrome] until about four years ago and a lot of doctors hadn't heard about it.  It's so often misdiagnosed as autism or cerebral palsy or just mental retardation,” Hamm explained.

According to Hamm, the symptoms of the disorder include lack of speech, sleeping disorders, delayed growth motor skills and obsessions with plastics and water.

He said Hathaway was suffering from sleeplessness while staying on the houseboat over the holiday weekend.

“I think they had a rough weekend with her trying to get her to sleep and staying down,” he said.

In wake of the tragedy, Hathaway's death is bringing awareness to the disorder.

Hamm and Hathaway's parents said they want pediatricians around the country to be more knowledgeable about the disorder.

“My hunch is that there are more angels out there than we know about,” Hamm said, adding, “God Bless little Elizabeth that she could help us all.”

Hathaway's family have asked in lieu of flowers donations be made to the Angel Wings Foundation.

Click here for more information on the foundation or to make a donation.

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