BILLINGS — One-year-old Imogen Hutchinson was born in March 2020 and has spent about half her life in the hospital, fighting a disease that doctors haven't been able to identify.
“Pretty little girls aren’t supposed to be living in the hospital. It’s not fair," said Justin Hutchinson, Imogen's uncle, who lives in Billings.
Imogen's parents, Travis Hutchinson and Hanna Hutchinson, grew up in Billings, married in 2016 and moved to Bozeman a few years back, Justin said.
It was December 2020 when the family noticed something was wrong.
"They kind of started noticing that she wasn’t feeling well and they were a little concerned. So they took her in and they’re like, ‘Well, we don’t really know what’s going on, so I guess just keep an eye on her and come back if things persist.’ Sure enough, they got admitted to the hospital in January. And they’ve kind of been in the hospital since then," Justin said.
Imogen was in and out of the hospital in Bozeman and Missoula before she was flown to the Seattle Children's Hospital in March 2021, about a week after her first birthday.
Doctors are still working to find a diagnosis. According to the family's blog, Imogen faces scleroderma-like symptoms, which is a tightening of skin and connective tissues.
“They can’t figure out a diagnosis for her, which is probably the most frustrating part. Obviously you want her healthy, but just having any answers. Having any kind of Idea of what is actually going on would be helpful and they just can’t figure anything out," Justin said.
Justin got to visit his niece a few weeks ago. He said she's just like any other little girl, who loves stickers, books music and the "Star Wars" character Baby Yoda.
"We did the dinosaur dance together, which is a book that she loves and I had to read that about three or four times in a row and had to do all the actions. Had to flap my wings like a dinosaur. Had to stomp my feet like a dinosaur. So she’s just a normal little girl who just happens to be sick and living in the hospital," Justin said.
Justin created a website, imogenrue.com, to act as a landing space for family updates on Imogen and links to various donation platforms. The family has been donated thousands of dollars to help pay for medical and travel expenses during a hospital stay that's lasted far longer than anyone would have thought.
"We are speechless. I don’t know what else to say other than that. The city of Billings and surrounding area, the whole state really, and even people that have come across Travis or Hannah and their lives that don’t live here anymore, people that know me from afar. It’s just crazy to see the amount of donations that are pouring in from all over. It’s just remarkable," Justin said.
Travis and Hannah gave up the apartment they were renting in Bozeman, all to stay with their daughter in Seattle. Until Imogen is well and is cleared to return home, that's where Travis and Hannah will stay, according to the couple's Sept. 2 blog update.
To help the family along, Justin organized a pub crawl and walk-a-thon to benefit his niece. On Saturday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. starting at Montana Brewing Company and stretching to four more bars, people can support the family. The bars will be donating a portion of draft alcohol sales and along the way, people can purchase raffle tickets.
At Jake's downtown, people will be able to color postcards to send off to Imogen and family. Uberbrew will host a photo booth. A secret project will be worked on at Bar MT.
At the last pub crawl stop, Last Chance Pub & Cider Mill, people can enjoy some live music and participate in silent or live auctions from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.
To keep up with Imogen's story and find links to donate, visit her website by clicking here.