Dansville teen overcomes rare disease, returns to dance


    Hannea Milliman (Center) took the stage Friday night, along with her fellow performers (WHAM photo)

    Mt. Morris, N.Y. (WHAM) - A Dansville teen returned Friday night to doing what she loves. A few months ago, it was all but a dream after a rare syndrome paralyzed her arm.

    13WHAM first met Hannea Milliman this summer, just before she went for surgery. It had been nine years since she had movement in her arm. Now, she’s taking the stage with a message of determination.

    Warming up backstage at her high school, Hannea prepared for her last performance of The Nutcracker.

    “I’m very excited,” said Hannea. ”Very excited. Nervous but mostly excited.”

    This moment almost didn’t happen.

    When Hannea was seven, she developed Parsonage Turner Syndrome, a rare disease that causes sudden muscle paralysis around the shoulder and arm. Her arm became paralyzed overnight.

    Doctors thought she had a stroke, and considered amputation. But Hannea chose not to amputate. Instead she danced to push through the condition.

    She went into surgery, hoping to regain movement in her arm.

    “The day before it was just so nerve-wracking. I kept getting panic attacks,” Hannea recalled.

    The surgery was a success, but recovery hasn’t been easy. Her mom has been afraid dancing might strain her.

    “It’s been a constant roller coaster,” said her mother, Christa Milliman. “Pain is there. I tried to stop her from dancing because I was scared.”

    Still Hannea was determined to dance.

    “I thought after therapy, I would be done and not be able to dance, but I had to slowly go back to it,” she said.

    Now after nine years, Hannea is starting to use her right arm again, taking the stage in a lead role.

    Her perseverance is an inspiration to many.

    “I can’t imagine being a little girl, waking up one morning and not being able to move your arm from that point on,” said Natale Harter, her dance instructor. “Just having to struggle with learning how to use your left hand and being that she has such a love for dance, she just kept going.”

    Ballerinas who dance with her feel motivated to accomplish their own challenges. “If she can do anything, I can do anything,” said ballerina Emily Porter.

    Hannea's message is simple, but powerful: “Always do what you love. Never give up. I always go by that. Because I do what I love and I have an arm that can’t move. It’s just do what you love and never give up.”

    Hannea hopes to one day open her own dance studio, focusing on classes for people with disabilities.

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