Although the Ferrells make balancing medicine and family life look effortless, it wasn’t always an easy path to navigate.
“We were put into this medical world, and we had to learn this new language,” Amber said. “Those first few months were very confusing and scary when trying to rule out several diagnoses, but the care we have received at UF Health has been phenomenal. Many of the treatments physicians have tried have worked and have given Nate a life we never expected him to have when we started this journey.”
To show their appreciation for the life-changing care Nate has received at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital, the Ferrells have spent the past six years serving as an ambassador family for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, a nonprofit that raises funds for medical research and lifesaving equipment at hospitals such as UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital while increasing awareness for children’s health issues.
Through this platform, the Ferrells have shared their story with students, potential donors and other pediatric patients and families across the nation.
In 2014, Nate was chosen as the CMN Florida Champion and traveled the country along with representatives from other states to spread awareness and raise funds. Through his travels, he met former first lady Michelle Obama in Washington, D.C., and comedian and talk show host Jimmy Kimmel in Los Angeles. His face has been on billboards from Times Square to Tennessee.
While in Texas earlier this year, the Ferrells were standing in line at the grocery store when Nate whispered, “Mom, that lady has a picture of me on her shirt.” Sure enough, the cashier was wearing a button decorated with Nate’s smiling face and the signature CMN balloon.
“We were nearly 1,000 miles away from home, and someone who had never met Nate was trying to raise money for CMN,” Amber said. “It’s surreal seeing the impact he’s made on thousands of people. His life has truly been a light to so many across the country.”
Spend five minutes with Nate and it’s easy to see that light emanating from his core. He doesn’t shy away from strangers; instead, he greets them with a grin and a handful of jokes at the ready.
When he grows up, he hopes to continue to entertain people through one of three dream jobs: working at Walt Disney World, hosting “The Tonight Show” or developing video games.
“It doesn’t matter if you have a disease,” he said, “you can still do great things.”