"She's about to turn 4," Hammett said.
It's not a miracle that Clara, a cheery girl with curly blonde hair and blue eyes, is about to celebrate another birthday. But it's nothing short of one that Hammett, who suffered a hemorrhage after giving birth four years ago this weekend and battled breast cancer less than a year later, could watch her girl grow up.
On Sunday, the 40-year-old from Hollywood, Md., will run in the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon in Minneapolis as one of the 25 Medtronic Global Heroes — runners with implanted medical devices who overcame serious medical conditions.
"Without running," Hammett said, "I don't think I would have come back."
She started by running from one mailbox to another, pushing Clara in a stroller, trying to build up a stamina she had very little of. Hammett had been broken down, pushing through a life that had offered more struggle than hope.
Even before the aerobics teacher had her third daughter, Hammett and her husband, Mike, had felt pain. Their first daughter, Grace, was born without vision because of an arachnoid cyst in her brain. She has full vision now. Ella, the couple's second daughter, came between the losses of two stillborn babies.
But Clara's birth in October 2007 brought the family to its collective knees. While Hammett had started hemorrhaging almost immediately after delivering, doctors hadn't discovered the internal bleeding until three days later.
By that time, Hammett had already lost so much blood that her hemoglobin level was three times lower than average. She shouldn't have still been alive, according to doctors. But after successfully going through surgery, she woke up with 57 staples lining the middle of herchest.
Because of the pressure the hemorrhage put on her organs and surrounding nerves, Hammett could no longer control her bladder and was in constant discomfort. For months, she relied on nerve medication and catheters. Then, just seven months after giving birth, Hammett learned she might have breast cancer.
"The kids had nightmares," Hammett said. "That was the worst part of me. For all of us, mortality was a reality."
Within weeks, Hammett had a double mastectomy.
"By comparison and in the grand scheme of things, it really wasn't that bad," Hammett said. "But at that point I was so beat down."
A lifelong fitness instructor, Hammett needed to find a way to get active again. She took it easy, gradually moving from walking to jogging to running. Eight weeks after the surgery, Hammett could run two to three miles. Another eight weeks and she had progressed to eight-to-10 mile jogs four times a week.
But even with her newfound love of running and recovery from breast cancer, Hammett still had her bladder problems and still had to use a catheter to go to the bathroom, even if it meant during one of her runs.
"I've done 10 miles, my bladder starts to hurt and it won't empty," Hammett said. "I'm out climbing in the poison ivy and the leaves, trying to use the catheter and trying not to get an infection. I had to do it three or four times a day."
Finally, her doctor referred her to Dr. Cheryl Iglesia at the Washington Hospital Center. Iglesia recommended that Hammett try "InterStim Therapy," a treatment that uses an internal device placed through surgery to help alleviate a communication problem between the brain and the nerves that control the bladder.
"I called her [right after the surgery to implant the device] and she was just crying," Iglesia said. "She was just so ecstatic to finally have some normalcy. … She's an inspiration to a lot of friends and a lot of women."