Regie Hamm has a very personal reason for his interest in Autism Awareness this month. Through years of misdiagnosis and the still unsolved mysteries of his daughter’s rare form of autism—Angelman Syndrome—his family was near medical bankruptcy when his life-changing connection with American Idol came in 2008.
During April, Regie Hamm is spearheading a campaign to “Find The Angels” – the misdiagnosed and often underserved children affected by Angelman Syndrome who need additional medical understanding and support and whose families are too often caught in a nightmare of medical misinformation.
What is Angelman Syndrome? Often misunderstood by doctors because of the rarity of this still incurable condition, “Angels” like Regie’s daughter, Bella, are missing a tiny piece of maternal chromosome that renders them in need of constant care throughout life. AS occurs in 1 in 15,000 live births. In 1987 only 70 cases were identified worldwide. In 2012 with the advances of research and education of medical professionals, more that 100,000 “Angels” were identified. Characteristics of AS include developmental delays, lack of speech, seizures, walking and balance disorders, and a constant uncommonly happy disposition. Too often children affected by AS are misdiagnosed under the broad spectrum of autism or celebral palsy.
A successful Grammy nominated songwriter and producer, Regie Hamm was on his way to superstardom in 2003. After penning over 20 #1 hits, many of them in the Christian market, he was racing up the charts as a solo artist when his life took an unexpected turn.
As revealed in the pages of his remarkable book, Angels & Idols, now in script development to become a movie, his was a life that had gone from experiencing the highest highs to hitting the depths. In the spring of 2008, his wife encouraged Regie to write ‘one more song’ and enter it into the American Idol songwriting contest. With a family drowning in medical bills and one week left to the contest deadline, he penned the words, “I’ll taste every moment and live it out loud…this the time of my life.” The rest, as they say, became musical history.
Hamm became the winner of American Idol’s Songwriter’s Competition of 2008 with his winning entry “The Time Of My Life” – coronation song and debut single for seventh season Idol winner David Cook which went on to be certified platinum. It has to date racked up more than 1.5 digital downloads. NBC-TV used the song as a recurring musical theme during the 2008 summer Olympics from Beijing, Oprah embraced it, and “The Time Of My Life” would go on to win “Song Of The Year” honors from annual SESAC’s performance society awards. The song also went on to stay at the #1 spot on Billboard’s AC chart for a record 16 weeks, making it the longest running #1 pop song ever written by a Nashville based songwriter—edging out Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” by one week.
The back story to success was the reality that has given Regie Hamm a very personal interest in speaking out this month. He and his wife Yolanda flew to China in 2003 to adopt a much anticipated orphaned baby girl. Once back in the U.S. the Hamms discovered their baby, Isabella, had a severe, mysterious disability that no medical specialist could seemingly pinpoint. Through a labyrinth of medical mis-diagnoses and unable to get insurance for their baby, the next chapter in their story would be years of confusion, round-the-clock care giving, life-altering sleep deprivation, crushing medical bills, and financial ruin.
Unknown to them during more than five years of the myriad of doctor’s opinions, complex medical mazes and insurance company battles, baby Bella suffered from the very rare neuro-genetic disorder, now identified as Angelman Syndrome.
Regie is today passionate about reaching other parents of AS children who are still battling the mysteries. “We were on the edge of utter disaster when a song showed up at just the right time, but it was more than a song, it was coming to terms with the journey and a realization of all the beauty I had in my life. It was the realization that Bella was a blessing, not a problem,” he notes.
With the April spotlight on Autism Awareness, Regie Hamm is passionate about reaching out through his platform of media to ultimately help educate parents and medical professions alike to bring Angelman Syndrome out of the shadows of mis-diagnosis. His message includes encouragement to find more information and resources on Angelman Syndrome online at http://findtheangels.org