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Juliet's Story

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Most elementary school children have never spent a night in a hospital outside of the maternity ward – which of course they don’t remember. But at just five-years-old, Juliet N. of Mountain Lakes, New Jersey, was diagnosed with leukemia.

Juliet’s family turned to the staff of Goryeb Children’s Hospital and Valerie Fund Children’s Center to help them through this intense period. “During the first 10 months,” Juliet’s mother, Gina says, “we were there at least once or twice every week for surgery, tests, chemotherapy, blood transfusions and doctor visits.”

On top of their overnight stays, some regular visits would last from 8:00 AM until four in the afternoon. “We went from knowing nothing about Goryeb,” Gina says, “to knowing everything. Because of the care and compassion, they showed us, they created a great environment during a very tough time.” Even at home, the family felt they were not alone. “If Juliet had symptoms, even in the wee hours of the morning, I knew I could call and  get help right away… we had care 24/7.”

They kind of have a way of making sure children are being taken care of and are happy about being there. After treatments ended, I kind of missed being at the hospital.

Juliet N., pediatric oncology patient

Dominic Lorenzo

Juliet’s team was led by Steven L. Halpern, MD, a specialist in hematology (blood disorders like leukemia) and pediatric cancer care. Dr. Halpern explains that, for every patient at Goryeb, the entire team meets every morning to make sure patients and their families get all the support they need.

“We understand that cancer impacts a child’s life and a family’s life,” Dr. Halpern says. “So, in addition to the medical treatment, we offer a full range of support services.”

These include assistance from social workers, dietitians, child life specialists and financial counselors. And Hug-a-me the clown, one of Juliet’s fondest memories, performed magic tricks and gave gifts of “cool stickers.”

“They made me comfortable,” Gina says, “and they made Juliet comfortable. That’s two very different audiences, but they dealt amazingly with us both.”An education liaison also helped Juliet keep her education on track. “I didn’t get to go back to kindergarten that year,” says Juliet.

“But they got me a robot that did!” The Valerie Center provided a VGo telepresence robot to allowed Juliet to remotely attend school, socialize with friends, and occasionally even have lunch with them.

Over the two-plus years of treatment and as Juliet improved, she and her mom, her dad (Anthony), and her little brother (Theodore) gained a strong connection to those involved in her care. Juliet says, “They kind of have a way of making sure children are being taken care of and are happy about being there at the same time. After treatments ended, I kind of missed being at the hospital.”

Today, the animated third grader is back to a busy schedule of school, plus classes in singing, acting and performance. She’s looking forward to an upcoming recital and to celebrating her ninth birthday.“

The Valerie Center was a big part of our lives for over two and a half years during Juliet’s treatment,” Gina says. “And they definitely still are! Goryeb continues to monitor her progress through monthly tests, with promising results.”

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