Reagan Harvey has participated in 4-H for about half of her life. Her mother, Amanda, said she was “destined” to be a Youth Fair kid.
“All my family is in it,” Reagan said. “My mom did it, everybody’s done it. It’s kind of like a tradition.”
Over 7 years of competing in 4-H events at the youth fair baking cakes, making crafts, taking photographs and selling rabbits – Reagan has amassed quite the collection of ribbons and plaques. And she’s done it all while suffering from health problems that most people don’t even know she has.
“Basically, all my intestines don’t really work,” Reagan said. “I’ve had to have lots of surgery.”
Reagan has intestinal dysmotility – her intestines don’t process or push through food the way they should. She’s had it her entire life, meaning she’s spent a great deal of time in the hospital.
“There’s no cure for it,” Amanda said. “There’s things to do to help with the symptoms. She’s had some operations, and some of it is showing signs of repair.”
Amanda compares Reagan to the main character in the movie “Miracles From Heaven,” a girl who suffers from a similar disease but is miraculously cured after falling from a tree and experiencing a vision of God.
“We just haven’t got the miracle from heaven yet,” Amanda said.
“We just need the tree,” Reagan joked, “but I don’t think I want to try that.”
Reagan’s a freshman at Victory Christian Academy in Decatur, but right now she’s homebound. However, she says, “I still try to get out and do stuff.”
That includes Youth Fair, which she’s competed at every year since she was in third grade. Last year Reagan’s meat pen of rabbits made the sale, but she was too ill to carry them, so her friends Hayden and Caleb Bennett took the rabbits to the arena for her. This year her family worried Reagan might not be able to enter at all. They found out on Monday the week of Youth Fair that Reagan would need to go to the hospital for a test on Wednesday.
They cooked all her food for Youth Fair early, starting the day they learned about the test. Her grandma and her aunt delivered the food Thursday morning, while Reagan was in the middle of a surgical procedure.
Reagan only did foods and crafts this year, holding back on the rabbits because they take too much time and energy. She hopes by next year she’ll feel well enough to show steers for the first time.
“I just want to step up to something bigger,” she said.
In the long run, she has even bigger plans – Reagan wants to be a surgeon one day, because she understands what it’s like to be a patient.
The Harveys said they’ve been lucky to meet several other people in Wise County who also have intestinal issues, including Reagan’s best friend, although not everyone understands that she’s sick.
“People are like, ‘What’s wrong with her? She looks fine,'” Amanda said.
They’d like to raise awareness of intestinal dysmotility and how difficult it can be to live with, while showing that it’s still possible to do things you enjoy.
“She still tries to do everything,” Amanda said. “She’s a strong person, stronger than me.”
Reagan chalks that strength up to faith.
“If there’s anybody out there who has this type of illness,” she said, “have faith and keep going. It does get better over time.”