Sarah was always active as a swimmer, soccer player, track star and dancer. But she started losing muscle tone at age 11. If she leaned over while dancing, she had trouble getting back up. Running became increasingly difficult. Then came low-grade fevers and a cold that just wouldn’t go away.
In October 2013, Sarah began crying because of intense pain in her side and legs. Her parents took her to the Emergency Department at McMaster Children’s Hospital. Within eight hours, Sarah was diagnosed with pre-B acute lymphoblastic leukemia. It was a week after her 12th birthday.
Considered a high-risk patient, she stayed in hospital for induction chemotherapy, a very aggressive treatment, which aims to achieve remission in about one month. This was successful and afterward she received additional chemotherapy to reduce her chance of relapse. She was able to go home for Christmas.
Sarah returned to the hospital later that winter because she was vomiting and losing a lot of weight, so she was placed on a feeding tube. She also formed blood clots, a side effect of one of her medications. She had to have needles in her belly twice a day for eight months.
“For someone who panics with needles or any medical trauma, Sarah could not have done it without outside support,” says Sarah’s mother, Cathi. “I can’t say enough about the child life specialists or the nurses who were so caring. Everyone was fantastic.”
On November 24, 2015, Sarah had her last dose of chemotherapy and she remains in remission. After such a challenging ordeal, her entire family appreciates the vital role of donor support in enabling the pediatric oncology department to provide outstanding health care.
“We will always be grateful for everyone at McMaster Children’s Hospital,” says Cathi. “The doctors and nurses are absolutely wonderful.”
Sarah was selected to represent McMaster Children’s Hospital Foundation as the 2016 Children’s Miracle Network Champion presented by Walmart. The program unites patient ambassadors from children’s hospitals across Canada for a series of fun activities in Orlando, Florida.
Until June 24, proceeds from the sale of Children’s Miracle Network paper balloon icons at Walmart locations in Hamilton, St. Catharines and the Niagara Region will support McMaster Children’s Hospital Foundation and will help enable specialized pediatric care for children like Sarah.