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Success Story of a Children's Hospital: Caleb
With help from Miller Children's, 7-year-old Caleb smashes cancer.
Imagine a routine school night, you’re helping your child with their homework when suddenly, your child complains of a stomachache - many parents can relate to this scenario. Soon it becomes apparent that the pain is real and not a ploy to get out of doing homework. This is where 7-year-old Caleb Bradfield’s story begins.
Caleb’s parents, Christine and Jordan Bradfield took him to a local urgent care in Long Beach thinking he had caught the flu. The care team at the urgent care, determined that Caleb required more specialized care and recommended that Caleb be taken to the emergency department (ED) equipped for children at Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach.
Caleb’s parents rushed him to Miller Children’s. Not only was Caleb’s pain persisting, but he began to vomit. While in the ED, the care team administered pain and anti-nausea medication. A look at Caleb’s vital signs - the body’s way of telling if it is functioning properly – indicated that his blood pressure was high, it would have to stabilize before he was allowed to go home.
Once his blood pressure was back to normal, Caleb was discharged when suddenly he began to vomit again. This raised concerns with his care team who performed an ultrasound revealing the underlying cause of his symptoms - a mass growing in his abdomen.
“The ultrasound confirmed that something was wrong,” said Christine, Caleb’s mom. “Caleb’s symptoms came up out of the blue, the mass in his abdomen was something we couldn’t feel from touch alone.”
Soon the Bradfield family met with Ramesh Patel, M.D., pediatric hematology/oncology, Miller Children’s who diagnosed Caleb with neuroblastoma. Neuroblastoma is a cancer that typically affects children under the age of 10 and attacks early nerve cells. Since Caleb’s diagnosis in October 2015, he has been treated at Jonathan Jaques Children’s Cancer Center (JJCCC) at Miller Children’s. Caleb has undergone chemotherapy, two stem cell transplants, radiation and is currently undergoing new treatment called immunotherapy.
The JJCCC care team is now a part of the Bradfield’s extended family, guiding them through Caleb’s childhood cancer journey. JJCCC’s multidisciplinary approach to patient-centered care has helped the Bradfield’s find hope and normalcy.
Thanks to his family and his care team, Caleb can still be himself, a typical little boy - filled with fun, laughter and a ready-for-anything attitude. For the second time, Caleb has been selected to be the starter of the JJCCC Tour of Long Beach, a premier cycling event benefitting pediatric cancer research.
The Tour of Long Beach is vital to increasing survival rates for pediatric cancer patients at JJCCC. The Tour of Long Beach joins the fight against childhood cancer by giving 100% of proceeds from the charity ride to clinical research programs at JJCCC.
“The Tour of Long Beach gives us and other families who find themselves in similar challenges a sense of community,” said Christine. “It’s easy to feel like we are alone on this journey, but the event brings us all together and encourages us to keep fighting.”
The Tour of Long Beach, will take place Saturday, May 13 at Shoreline Dr. and Linden Ave. in Long Beach. There are four routes, including:
a 30-mile route that travels the bike paths and streets of Long Beach; a 62-mile route that leads to Newport Beach; a 100-mile Cruz Gran Fondo loops through Long Beach then heads down the coast and ends in Laguna Beach; and a 5-mile Family Fun Ride. All routes end at the Finish Line Festival with live entertainment, BBQ, beer garden and kids’ zone.
“Opportunities like Tour of Long Beach give us something fun to look forward to,” says Jordan. “For Caleb, being able to participate is a big deal, especially since he gets to leave his hospital room. There’s nothing like seeing the big smile on his face on the day of the event.”
Success Story of a Children's Hospital: Jazlyn
When cancer, like a fire-breathing dragon, desolated her health, Princess Jazlyn fought back with Miller Children’s right by her side.
With both hands, Martha grabbed her 6-year-old Jazlyn’s hips, shifting her left and then right. Martha, ran her hands over her little girl’s belly. “What is that?” she thought to herself, trying to make sense of the bump on her daughter’s belly.
“Does your stomach hurt?” said Martha. “Do you feel sick?”
“Nope,” said Jazlyn. “Mom, can I wear my princess shirt today?”
Questions and worries crept into Martha’s mind. “I’ll call the doctor, she’ll be fine,” she hoped.
Jazlyn’s pediatrician urged them to go to the Emergency Department at Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach designed specifically to treat kids. An abdominal ultrasound discovered a large abdominal mass. Jazlyn was admitted to the Jonathan Jaques Children’s Cancer Center (JJCCC) for further evaluation.
A CT of Jazlyn’s chest, abdomen and pelvis revealed a large 14-cm soft tissue mass — about the size of a large grapefruit. The mass was in Jazlyn’s lower abdomen and pelvis, and appeared to arise from between the rectum and bladder, severely compressing her colon. A surgical biopsy of the abdominal mass found that it was consistent with an embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma (ERMS) — a malignant soft tissue tumor that is formed from embryonic skeletal muscle tissue, the type of tissue that grows into skeletal muscles. Treating ERMS would involve a very long, aggressive treatment regimen.
The CT also revealed that Jazlyn had a mass, about the size of a marble, in her lung. This second mass in her lung meant Jazlyn was at stage IV cancer.
Jazlyn’s care team worked with her parents to plan several different treatments, including chemotherapy, radiation and surgery to help her fight the cancer. The mass in her abdomen was so large that it would be too dangerous for surgical removal. A strategy was put in place to shrink the mass.
Within a week of admission, a port-a-cath — a device used to give intravenous fluids, blood transfusions, chemotherapy and other drugs — was placed under the skin in the right side of Jazlyn’s chest. A port-a-cath may stay in place for weeks or months and helps avoid the need for repeated needle sticks.
Everything was happening fast for Jazlyn. “This was no place for a princess and I don’t like cancer,” she thought. With every new procedure Jazlyn withdrew and eventually stopped talking.
Jazlyn’s care team wouldn’t let her lose her princess power. From the point of admission they fought cancer by her side. JJCCC’s distinguished medical programs are staffed by a multi-disciplinary pediatric hematology/oncology care team, complete with Child Life Specialists.
Child Life Specialists help children learn about their illnesses and prepare them for procedures through medical play. A dedicated hematology/oncology playroom helps patients find comfort through play and allows them to spend time with family and friends.
“Play is an important part of a child’s understanding of the world around them,” says Rosemarie Mills, Child Life Specialist. “Medical play helped Jazlyn work through her experience.”
Through play, Jazlyn regained her confidence and was back to enjoying arts & crafts and dressing up as a princess.
Child Life also supported Jazlyn during radiation therapy. For kids in general, radiation treatment can be scary, but at Miller Children’s we have Waldo Guzman, radiation therapist, who takes his time introducing the procedure to patients.
“Kids like Jazlyn get a tour of the radiation room,” says Waldo. “We even peek in the cupboards so they can see there aren’t any monsters. Then we talk about holding still during treatment. Child Life is a big help, they provide prizes for the kids after every treatment. Soon the kids look forward to coming and shake their fears.”
Jazlyn would undergo radiation for months to completely shrink the mass in her lung. The mass in her abdomen shrunk to a size safe enough to be removed surgically in Jan. 2017. Although near the end of her chemotherapy, Jazlyn’s fight continues.
For a girl like Jazlyn, cancer can seem like a fire breathing dragon, ready to desolate her health. But with her loved ones by her side, support from her comprehensive care team at JJCCC and princess power, she can show cancer what little girls are made of — glitter, giggles and grit.
Success Story of a Children's Hospital: Melanie
Unicorn Magic and Support from Melanie's Family and Care Team Help Her Through Her Journey with Cancer
Melanie Hackett, 5, looked over her outfit: laced-up high tops with glitter unicorn print; sparkly sequin, rainbow colored tutu; gold unicorn horn headband and rainbow sequined unicorn ears.
“What’s missing?” thought Melanie.
Melanie was getting ready for the Annual Champions Run for Life “Torch Run”, a fundraiser for the Jonathan Jaques Children’s Cancer Institute at MemorialCare Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach. The Torch Run is an Olympic-style relay race filled with uplifting moments as patient “champions” carry a torch — a symbol of hope for a cure — through a one-eighth mile celebratory lap.
This was Melanie’s first big outing since… cancer. Melanie’s story with cancer began with a literal thud.
Melanie had fallen from the playground structure at preschool. Melanie’s mom, Sujey, happened to be with her and rushed her to a local South Bay emergency department. An ultrasound and X-ray showed that Melanie was fine. Sujey was told to expect bruising and to schedule a visit with Melanie’s pediatrician.
Days following the fall, Melanie contracted a stomach virus. Sujey was worried, but didn’t want to overreact.
At Melanie’s next follow-up appointment, her pediatrician noticed she looked pale and exhausted. The pediatrician told Sujey to continue monitoring her and to schedule another follow-up appointment.
Soon, Melanie didn’t want to go to preschool or tee-ball. She was too tired. Her parents’ worried — what was going on with their four-year-old?
Blood work was taken at Melanie’s next follow-up appointment. The next day, Melanie’s pediatrician called to confirm her condition was critical and that she needed to go to the emergency department.
Back at their local hospital, Melanie’s poor condition was tied to a low hemoglobin count. Melanie required specialty pediatric care and needed to be transported to a children’s hospital.
Considering peak traffic hours, distance and Melanie’s critical condition, her parents chose to transport her to Miller Children’s & Women’s.
The Transport Program at Miller Children’s & Women’s has a specialized care team to safely transport children who need life-saving specialty care. On the evening of Thursday, April 6, 2017, Melanie arrived by transport at Miller Children’s & Women’s. Melanie was admitted to the Jonathan Jaques Children’s Cancer Institute where she received a blood infusion and underwent more testing.
The next morning, Melanie, Sujey, dad Ryan, and grandpa John, met with Jacqueline Casillas, M.D., medical director, Jonathan Jaques Children’s Cancer Institute, who revealed Melanie’s diagnosis — acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).
A common childhood cancer, the Hackett family was familiar with ALL. Someone else in their family had been diagnosed with ALL as a child. Discussing the experience, they realized Dr. Casillas had been the treating physician on that family member’s case many years ago at UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital.
In recent years, Miller Children’s & Women’s and UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital has formed a strategic affiliation to bring together each hospitals academic, clinical and research expertise, and resources to enhance children’s health care services in Southern California.
They were relieved to have a familiar and trusted physician on Melanie’s care team during such a difficult time. Dr. Casillas explained that Melanie’s treatment would span two years and three months and that the care team at Jonathan Jaques Children’s Cancer Institute would be by Melanie and her family’s side through it all.
Sujey and Ryan worked closely with the care team to learn about Melanie’s condition, treatment regimen which included steroids, chemotherapy and more. Melanie was hospitalized for 11 days and then discharged for at-home care.
Cancer interrupted Melanie’s life. She had to drop out of preschool and tee-ball. As a side effect of her chemotherapy, she lost her hair. But through it all, with her family and care team with her every step of the way, the one thing Melanie never lost was her sparkle.
Sparkle and Shine
More than a year into cancer treatment, Melanie whipped around and picked up the missing piece of her outfit.
She slid her gold-rimmed aviator sunglasses, with rainbow ombre tinted lenses onto the brim of her little nose.
She looked in the mirror, struck a pose and threw a peace sign and giggled. She was ready to shine her unicorn magic at Torch Run.
Success Story of a Children's Hospital: Hector
Five-year-old Hector Tackles Cancer with a Winning Team
Hector Sandoval stopped to look over his polished hair in the mirror. He smoothed his 5-year-old hands over his hair.
“Mom, I look good!” he says as he looked up at her with a wink.
“Even when you’re not feeling well, you’re still silly,” says Paola Sandoval, Hector’s mom. She felt his warm forehead with the back of her hand. “Are you sure you want to go?”
“Mom, I can’t miss, again,” pleads Hector.
Paola hesitantly agreed.
“This makes three weeks,” Paola thought to herself as she worried over Hector’s persistent fever. Even after 10 days of antibiotics, the fever hadn’t subsided, and oddly her three older children hadn’t been sick — something felt wrong. Despite multiple visits to the pediatrician, Hector’s fever was unexplained.
At football practice, Hector was miserable which was strange for him, because he loves the sport. Hector grew up watching his two older brother’s play and watched games with his family.
Hector is a die-hard Los Angeles Rams fan, his favorite player is Rams running back Todd Gurley (#30), and his family had even purchased season tickets to support the team.
At night, Hector started sweating a lot — his mom thought it was a side effect of the fever. Hector also developed a cough. Paola’s uneasiness grew. They made another trip to the pediatrician where an X-ray of his chest was taken to rule out pneumonia.
After a few days, Paola received a call from Hector’s pediatrician. They confirmed her worries —a mass was found in Hector’s chest X-ray. They recommended Hector be taken to the emergency department at MemorialCare Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach to meet Ramesh Patel, M.D., hematologist/oncologist, Jonathan Jaques Children’s Cancer Center. Additional, imaging found a 6-inch mass wrapped around Hector’s respiratory system.
After more testing, Hector’s diagnosis was confirmed — Stage 3 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a cancer that starts in the cells of the lymph node glands, which are part of the body’s immune system.
Hector underwent three days of intensive chemotherapy and was scheduled for regular 21-day cycles of treatment. Hector was able to go home in between treatments. He experienced many of the common side effects of chemotherapy, but the toughest was hair loss.
“Many chemotherapy drugs are designed to effectively kill rapidly dividing cells,” says Dr. Patel. “Before chemotherapy, hair follicles divide every 23 to 72 hours.”
Hector’s hair began to fall out after his second chemotherapy session.
“Dad, people will make fun of me,” an inconsolable Hector said.
Hector, Sr., put on a brave face. Hair loss is often hard for the entire family to cope with. Hector, Sr. held his son and reminded him that he had his family’s support and love.
That week, his entire family cut their hair in solidarity with Hector. His brothers, grandma and his mom all cut their hair short — his dad shaved his head bald. Their love empowered Hector.
Another source of motivation for Hector was Gurley. Hector tied his hero to his cancer journey, including everything from imaging to treatment.
Hector’s treatment ran through the holidays. Cancer kept him from Kindergarten, playing football and his Rams games — his family had given away their season tickets, vowing to wait for Hector to go next year.
Then Hector, Sr., had a call with Rams member services consultant, Johnny Mendez, Jr., regarding their season tickets. Hector’s cancer journey and love for Gurley came up in their conversation. The Rams wanted to show Hector they were supporting him too, after all, they were “Ramily.” A special visit was scheduled at Hector’s home that included a surprise.
On Dec. 19, 2017, just as Hector finished chemotherapy, Gurley visited a bald Hector and his family at their home in Long Beach and surprised him with a trip for two to Super Bowl LII.
Hector and his dad made the trip to the Super Bowl together. An overall incredible experience, it was crowned with a serendipitous encounter with Gurley while boarding the airplane to head home.
They caught up, exchanged well wishes, then Gurley turned to say, “Your hair is looking good, Hector.”
Hector grinned as he smoothed his 6-year-old hands over the little fuzz that had begun to grow back.
Success Story of a Children's Hospital: Olivia
Olivia Carries On After An Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia Diagnosis with Help from her Care Team
“Your daughter has leukemia.”
The words hit Dora like a semi-truck. She looked at her little
5-year-old daughter, Olivia, sitting in the hospital bed.
Olivia watched her mom talking to the doctor, sucking her two little fingers, clutching her green security blanket and rubbing the blanket’s silk edges against her cheek.
Olivia listened as Alireza Fathi, M.D., MBA, FAAP, medical director, Miller Children’s & Women’s Transport Program, MemorialCare
Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach, talked and comforted Dora.
Olivia’s official diagnosis was acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), cancer that starts from the early version of white blood cells called lymphocytes in the bone marrow — the soft inner part of the bones, where new blood cells are made. Dr. Fathi explained that “acute” meant that leukemia can progress quickly as leukemia cells usually invade the blood fairly fast. Their fast-moving nature means that they can spread to other parts of the body rapidly if not treated.
A Long Time Coming
Days leading up to Olivia’s hospitalization, she seemed to be experiencing flu symptoms. She had a fever, no energy, no appetite and a headache. Then, without warning, on Tuesday, Dec. 26, 2016, she collapsed and her lips turned blue. Once she woke up, Olivia threw up and told her mom her legs “felt dizzy.”
Dora rushed Olivia to urgent care. They tried taking her blood, but something was wrong. They pricked her finger, her blood looked watery. Dora was urged to take Olivia to the emergency department at Miller Children’s & Women’s. She was given a referral form, among the scrawly writing were the numbers “2.3” — what did that mean?
Olivia was admitted to the Cherese Mari Laulhere Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) where they learned about her diagnosis and met Dr. Fathi.
Dora learned that the “2.3” represented Olivia’s hemoglobin and that it was dangerously low. As is the nature of ALL, Olivia’s hemoglobin count declined fast. Just six months ago at her wellness checkup, Olivia’s hemoglobin was recorded at a healthy 13.2.
Dr. Fathi explained that by all accounts, Olivia should have fallen into a coma or at the very least had convulsions, but that her little body was already putting up a fight. Dr. Fathi prepared Dora and Olivia, letting them know that cancer treatment would be a long journey, but Olivia’s care team would be by their side through it all.
After three days in PICU, Olivia was transferred to the Jonathan Jaques Children’s Cancer Institute where her multi-disciplinary care team expanded.
An implantable port, referred to as a port-a-cath, was placed in Olivia’s chest to help her receive her medicines and treatments. One end of a thin tube is put into a large vein, while the other end leads to a small rubber dome, or portal (port), just under the skin.
Together We’ll Carry On
Cancer turned Olivia and her family’s life upside-down. In a matter of days, Olivia went from starting transitional Kindergarten to fighting cancer. She went from adjusting to school, to adjusting to life with ALL.
The total length of therapy for most kids with ALL is about two to three years. Dora would work closely with the care team in the days that followed to learn about ALL and Olivia’s treatments. On Tuesday, Jan. 3, Olivia was cleared to begin at-home treatment and discharged from the hospital.
Two days after returning home, Olivia began her regular visits to the Nightengales’ Infusion Center at Miller Children’s & Women’s where children who need intravenous (IV) therapy are cared for. The majority of patients treated in the Infusion Center have cancer or other serious blood disorders.
Thanks to her regular visits, Olivia made best friends with Alice Appleyard, RN.
“The procedures completed at the Infusion Center can be really tough for our kids,” says Alice. “But Olivia comes in here and is a ray of sunshine. She’s a strong kid and her source of strength comes from her mom.”
Through it all, good days and bad, Olivia approaches her therapy with a smile and tries to make the most of her experience.
Today, Olivia is back at school, has graduated from Kindergarten and has made new friends. Olivia is completing maintenance therapy and is on track to complete her treatment in early 2019.