A Christmas Lauren Will Never Forget
Three days before Christmas of 2010, 12-year-old Lauren Lee was wishing for two things – to find an iPod Touch under her tree and to feel better.
“She looked pale, anemic,” said her father, Jim Lee. “That was the clue something was wrong.”
Rachel Tarr, a physician assistant at Family Medicine Associates in Collinsville, examined Lauren because she had been running a fever, vomiting and experiencing night sweats.
A blood test indicated Lauren was severely anemic. Tarr called SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital immediately to schedule an appointment for Lauren.
On December 23, Lauren and her family were sitting with William S. Ferguson, MD, director of hematology/oncology at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon. He told them that Lauren’s x-rays showed a large mass in her chest. She was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of lymph tissue. Her treatment would begin on the Monday after Christmas, making that Christmas one they will never forget.
Of SSM Health Cardinal Glennon patients admitted for overnight stays last year, a total of 2,598, more than a third, came from Illinois. SSM Health Cardinal Glennon’s Dana Brown Neonatal Intensive Care Center admitted 370 premature infants from Illinois last year, nearly half of its patients. The Dan Dierdorf Emergency and Trauma Center cared for 18,270 Illinois patients, nearly 39 percent of its total.
Nearly 800 Illinois children visited the Knights of Columbus Developmental Center last year and 280 more visited one of SSM Health Cardinal Glennon’s developmental pediatricians at Anderson Hospital in Maryville, Ill. The Knights Center offers care for children with developmental issues including autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, learning disabilities, Down’s syndrome, traumatic head injuries, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder and other developmental disabilities.
SSM Health Cardinal Glennon offers pediatric emergency care at Belleville Memorial Hospital and Anderson Hospital, where SSM Health Cardinal Glennon doctors also provide sub-specialty services. In addition, one-third of SSM Health Cardinal Glennon employees live in Illinois.
“I refer my patients to Cardinal Glennon because I’ve had a great personal and professional experience with the hospital,” said Tarr, a graduate of Saint Louis University’s Doisy College of Health Sciences. “Cardinal Glennon also offers a non-intimidating environment for children.”
“We have access to all the latest information and newest medications, including many new investigational drugs,” Ferguson said. “As part of the National Institutes of Health’s Children’s Oncology Group, we are not only provided with the latest research and protocols, but have access to physicians and researchers throughout the world with the most up to date information for any given disease. At the same time, we strive to provide a friendly, comforting and accommodating environment where patients and families are not only treated as individuals but as partners in working towards a cure.”
“I’ve been receiving regular, thorough updates from Dr. Ferguson on Lauren’s status, usually the same day he sees her,” Tarr said. “It’s obvious he is spending a lot of time with the family.”
“Lauren’s always been scared of needles and doctors,” said her mother Angie. “But Dr. Ferguson was great at explaining the treatment process to Lauren in a way that made her feel comfortable. You don’t get that with every doctor.”
“I try to explain things using plain English,” Ferguson said. “Since successful treatment depends as much on the family as what we do in the hospital, it is very important to work extra hard to educate patients and families. I also try to emphasize that our entire team is available to answer questions.”
In order to receive her chemotherapy medications, Lauren was fitted with a Portacath under the skin in her chest. The catheter was placed by Edmund Yang, M.D., a pediatric surgeon at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon. Before that surgery, Yang met with Lauren and her family.
“He came in and explained every step of the way,” said Jim.
Lauren is on the road to recovery. She completed chemotherapy treatment on April 8 and was scheduled to finish radiation therapy at the end of May. “Lauren is feeling great,” her mother said. “She is back at school full time and back to her favorite activities – basketball and dance.”
Lauren is feeling positive about many things. Recently she told her mom, “After all of this, I just may like doctors.”