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Bright Futures

Articles and Updates from Phoenix Children's

Despite the many hardships of 2020, hope and healing continued at Phoenix Children’s. And for some families, 2020 even brought miracles. 

To shine on a light on these inspiring stories amid an otherwise difficult year, Phoenix Children’s partnered with 12 News. Here’s a look at how 2020 was life-changing, in a good way. 

Phoenix Children’s saves two siblings with severe health issues, two years apart
Melissa Hernandez, a mother who has logged hundreds of hours at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, gave birth to her second child on Valentine’s Day in 2020. The baby was airlifted to Phoenix Children’s NICU for a heart arrhythmia and was soon diagnosed with neuroblastoma. The diagnosis and subsequent chemo treatments – along with an array of health complications requiring specialty care from nearly a dozen different Phoenix Children’s divisions – kept Ivyana in the NICU for more than five months.

Melissa was already a veteran NICU mom. Three years ago, she gave birth to a boy, Xavier, who was transferred to Phoenix Children’s for treatment of an intestinal obstruction. The baby had also been diagnosed with arthrogryposis, a rare congenital disorder that affected his ankles, wrists and elbows. Two months in the NICU were followed by numerous surgeries and a heavy therapy schedule to correct his condition. Learn more about their journey here

Baby’s corrective surgery saves use of arm
When Catherine Khan noticed that her infant daughter, Charlotte, wasn’t using her right arm, she sought the advice of a doctor. She learned Charlotte had suffered a birth injury – Erb's Palsy – which damaged her brachial plexus (the network of nerves that sends signals from the spinal cord to the shoulder, arm and hand). 

Initial hopes that physical/occupational therapy would resolve the issue were dashed by the time Charlotte reached six months. Surgery was scheduled, which was especially nerve-wracking due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. But upon arriving at Phoenix Children’s the morning of the surgery, Catherine felt a deep sense of calm. Chief of pediatric neurosurgery at Phoenix Children’s, Dr. David Adelson took special care to explain exactly what would happen during surgery and what to expect afterward. The operation was successful on every account: Charlotte is now a year old and has gained full use of her arm. She is crawling, clapping and feeding herself. For her family, it’s a miracle, indeed. Watch their story here.

Teen Girl Receives Life-Changing Spinal Fusion Surgery to Correct Severe Scoliosis
When Gabriella Mercier was diagnosed with scoliosis in seventh grade, her curvature was already severe, and it was affecting every aspect of her life. After consulting with a number of doctors who recommended Gabriella wear a brace for 20-23 hours a day, her family found Dr. Greg White, division chief of Orthopedics at Phoenix Children’s.

Dr. White determined that a brace would have only minimal impact because Gabriella was still growing. Instead, he recommended ongoing monitoring of her condition and said she would need surgery if and when her curve reached 50 degrees. The 15-year-old underwent spinal fusion surgery in September to correct the curve – and she is thrilled with the outcome. Gabriella grew a full two inches as a result of the surgery! Watch her story here.

Teen Golfer ‘Aces’ Cancer Treatment and Recovery 
A sudden diagnosis of Hodgkin lymphoma didn’t stop 16-year-old Chase Gorder from keeping his passion for golf alive. After Chase developed a persistent cough and growing fatigue, his parents took him to a pediatrician for a check-up. What they thought was a viral cough quickly escalated; doctors discovered Chase had some sort of lymphoma. But worst of all, a mass from his newly diagnosed cancer was pushing on his superior vena cava, the main vein going into the heart, and causing a dangerous blood clot.

Over the course of six months – and despite a grueling treatment schedule of chemotherapy and radiation – Chase continued to play his favorite sport, even participating in a two-day national golf tournament where he scored a 74 both days – in 123-degree temperatures – and in the midst of his cancer treatment. He thanks Phoenix Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders oncologist Michael Henry, MD, for helping him win the battle of his life. See his experience here.

Family Travels 3,000 Miles for Treatment of Son’s Heart Condition
Shortly before their son, Gustavo, turned 6, his parents, Jose and Diana, learned that he needed a heart transplant. But healthcare professionals in Puerto Rico wouldn’t be able to care for Gustavo. So, Jose and Diana searched for an alternative and found Daniel Velez, MD, and Phoenix Children’s Heart Center. After traveling 3,000 miles to Phoenix, Gustavo almost immediately went onto life support. 

It was 14 months before a donor heart became available and Gustavo had new hope for the future. In that time, the family experienced many miracles, including a successful heart transplant and a new chance at life. Today, Gustavo loves playing soccer, and his parents describe him as “loving and caring” and “a little gentleman.” View their journey here.

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