Azraella was nearly 15 months old when she began to limp. Soon thereafter she refused to walk, preferring to crawl instead. X-rays of her hips and legs came back normal. Soon, however, she wasn’t even crawling – she didn’t want to move and constantly cried in pain. Following a blood test, Azraella was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). This diagnosis was understandably difficult for Azraella’s family to digest – a sense of fear and confusion came over them – a million emotions all wrapped into one. After about a month, Azraella was placed in the high-risk category, which means a relapse and the need to begin the fight against cancer all over again was a distinct possibility. She has now had two surgeries and dealt with numerous spinal taps, infusions and sessions of chemotherapy. A tough little girl, Azraella continues to receive treatment and fight on.
Gunner is truly one in a million. He was born with a rare form of dwarfism, a type so unique he is the only person known so far to have this specific genetic makeup. This diagnosis brings with it total hip dysplasia, arthritis, mesocardia, mild hydrocephalus, chronic lung disease, kyphosis and scoliosis. Gunner spent two months in the NICU gaining strength, developing his lungs, and eating - all while continuing testing. After time spent in the NICU, Gunner needed additional care at home. At 3 ½, he has overcome many challenges. He regularly sees pediatric specialists who monitor his progress. Gunner has a custom-made walker, attends physical and occupational therapy and is beginning aquatic therapy. He attends school, loves to make new friends and thrives at being the center of attention with his silly jokes and bright personality. Gunner is an inspiration to all as he has come so far with a bright future ahead.
Milestones are difficult enough to reach without the extraordinary health issues. Though Harper was born three weeks early, nothing on her mother’s ultrasounds indicated problems, including Down Syndrome. Harper had two holes in her heart that did not close at birth and was diagnosed with apnea. After 11 days in the NICU, she was sent home with an apnea monitor. A phone call one day from daycare put her family in a tailspin – she was turning blue. Harper was monitored and tested at Mercy Children’s Hospital while battling E.coli that had gotten into her blood stream and spread throughout her system. Two weeks of heavy antibiotics finally rid her system of the infection. A couple months later, she was again admitted to Mercy Children’s with parainfluenza and E.coli. Remaining tough through these battles, Harper is now in physical, occupational and water therapy and soon, speech therapy. Now, hitting some milestones is slowly coming to fruition.
His parents eagerly awaited Holden’s grand entrance into the world. When that day came, he had multiple heart rate drops and distress due to meconium staining (making it hard to breathe or causing infection) and fluid in his lungs. That led to a stay in the NICU where he was on CPAP for two days and dealt with problems such as trouble eating, persistent hypoglycemia (very low blood sugar), and severe jaundice. An MRI confirmed various birth defects in the brain that led to neurosurgery. He was discharged two days later due to his vast improvement following surgery. Holden was hospitalized twice since and continues to be monitored by his physicians and therapists. Though his prognosis is not known, he brings joy each day to those around him, including his parents who had so eagerly awaited his arrival and are happy to have him in their lives.
When he was just two years of age, Jacob became very ill and was admitted to Mercy Children’s Hospital. His eyes were very swollen. After a few months of allergy medication, Jacob woke from a nap with his eyes so swollen that he could barely see. A simple urine test led to a diagnosis of Childhood Nephrotic Syndrome, something that occurs when the capillary blood vessels that help filter the blood to form urine are not working properly. Something as simple as a common cold can cause a relapse with facial, extremity and abdominal swelling. His family members felt helpless and sad at the diagnosis, however, they have learned to take one day a time. With the help of a new medication provided during his last stay at Mercy Children’s, Jacob is able to be himself – an outgoing, fun-loving little boy. This past Fall he started pre-school where he enjoys learning and playing with his new friends.
A happy child who showed interest in other children, loved for someone to read to him and possessed the appetite of a teenager at the age of one. That described Joey. However, at the age of one and one-half, Joey began to lose his social smile and seemed to fixate on certain objects. His teachers noticed that he had trouble self-regulating, loved the sensory table and, for the most part, parallel played with other children rather than interacting with them. When Joey was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, we researched facilities that offered Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and Mercy Autism Services was recommended. Mercy was highly spoken of by families with similar situations. Since starting ABA therapy, his family has seen tremendous growth in him and are excited to see what his future holds.
Lakenya has been dealing with pancreatitis attacks for three years, having had two episodes prior to moving from New Jersey to Toledo. Her family hoped that the attacks were behind her, however, the symptoms eventually returned Lakenya was diagnosed with Minimal Change Disease (MCD), the most common cause of nephrotic syndrome in children. MCD causes damage to the glomeruli, which are tiny ball-shaped structures composed of capillary blood vessels that help filter the blood to form urine. Now 10, Lakenya continually amazes her family with how well she handles everything. Nothing gets by her. At times she asks “Why me?” but she also realizes that there are children with worse conditions. She doesn’t get discouraged. She has learned to recognize the signs, how to handle her issues, and when it’s time to go to the hospital. Lakenya’s struggles, to her, provide ammunition to keep her motivated toward her goal of going to nursing or medical school. Go Lakenya!
Landon was born with a rare connective tissue disease called recessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa (EB), which affects 200 children a year. Children with this disease are more commonly known as “butterfly children.” As the analogy implies, his skin is as fragile as that of the wings of a butterfly. Soon after birth, Landon’s parents noticed missing skin all over his body, especially on his hands and feet. A couple of visits to NICU and treatment for EB took place before Landon came to Mercy Children’s Hospital. Doctors there found MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus) on his foot. Without the hospital admission and care nurse who noticed the MRSA, Landon may not be with us today. There is no cure for EB and all variations share the prominent symptom of extremely fragile skin that blisters and tears form minor friction or trauma. Internal organs and bodily systems can be seriously affected. Landon faces daily wound care, pain management and protective bandaging. His fortitude is an inspiration for all of us.
Natalie has endured numerous stays in the hospital since she was diagnosed with immune thrombocytopenic pupura (ITP). This is a bleeding disorder in which the immune system destroys platelets that are necessary for blood clotting. The first indication was when she showed signs of bruising and was admitted to Mercy Children’s Hospital. Those with this disease do not have enough platelets in the blood. Testing for leukemia was negative so her doctors began to fight the ITP more aggressively. However, while having a platelet infusion, she had a severe reaction. Since regular treatments weren’t helping, she received IV infusions. Natalie now sees her hematologist monthly to make sure that her platelet count stays in the normal range. Through it all, Natalie courageously fights on.
Urinary tract infections (UTI) never come at a good time in life. Paige experienced a UTI at the tender age of two months. When a child of this age develops a UTI, there is usually an underlying issue – and that was the case with Paige. A radiology procedure led to the discovery that she was suffering from urinary reflux – a condition in which the urine backs up into the kidney. Paige’s diagnosis was that of a grade 4 on a scale of 1 – 5. After further testing, her parents decided that surgery was the best option. They describe the care that she received at Mercy Children’s, that included a four-hour surgery, was wonderful. Paige, as her family expected, proved resilient and she bounced back quickly. Today, she is doing great - her incision has healed nicely and the hope is that, by her late teens, it won’t even be noticeable. Paige’s parents say that their overall experience was amazing and feel very fortunate that Paige’s issues could be corrected. They count their blessings every day.
Join our mission to help the poor and underserved be well.