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Treating Rare Childhood Conditions

September 15, 2017

Goryeb Children’s Hospital Helps Bring Adele Back

Like many four-year-olds, Adele would often entertain others simply with her energy and antics. But during a two-month period, parents Andrew Johnson and Yin Wu of Somerset County, NJ, saw her energy wane alarmingly. “She was so weak many times that I had to carry her up the stairs,” Johnson says.

Trips to pediatricians resulted in few answers. “Then we took her to the Valerie Fund Children’s Center at Goryeb Children’s Hospital in Morristown Medical Center,” he says. “There, we got our answer.”

Adele had leukemia. That news in early 2014 took the entire family on a long journey. But it left them with a deep trust in and thankfulness for what they now call “an elite team” at the Valerie Center, and a sweet seven-year- old who can now just focus on being a kid again.

Treating Rare Childhood Conditions

Adele had a rare type of blood cancer called acute lymphoblastic leukemia, or ALL. As her family discovered, physicians at Goryeb have expertise in diagnosing it and other rare childhood conditions, and in treating them successfully.

Further, Goryeb Children’s Hospital is a member of the Children’s Oncology Group, made of 9,000 experts in childhood cancer from around the world. So patients also benefit from their expertise.

Innovative Treatments

In addition to standard chemotherapy, young patients at Goryeb Children’s Hospital have access to new types of “immunotherapy” drugs for leukemia. Because these work by targeting specific abnormalities in the blood, they often have fewer side effects.

“We’re using some new therapies that were not even available last year,” says Steven Halpern, MD, medical director of pediatric hematology/oncology for the Children’s Center.

“These are a good example of success in treatment of childhood cancers because altogether, 90 percent of children with ALL leukemia can be cured,” he says.

At Goryeb, It’s Personal

For Adele, multiple visits for diagnosis transitioned into innumerable visits for treatment. And during this time, her parents learned to deeply trust her medical team.

 “There, caring for children is personal,” Johnson says. “They are determined to do their best to bring these kids back to good health.”

Staff members also know exactly what can bring a smile to their young patients’ faces. Child life specialists use play to explain procedures. Children looked forward to choosing a small prize from the Treasure Box at the end of each visit. The staff even celebrates their birthdays.

“Just 15 miles from our home, we found this oasis of support and care,” Johnson says.

Looking Forward

Adele has now finished the long 26 months of treatment. “In contrast to the last year or two, she’s returning to her favorite activities,” says her mother, Wu, “like ballet class with her friends, piano lessons, crafts, drawing and even writing.”

And recently, a simple, “normal” act struck Adele’s parents.

“I glanced over to see her busily just jumping up and down in place,” Johnson says. “It was then I knew: Our little girl was back.”