Compassion During an Unexpected Tragedy

A grave diagnosis during the holiday season brings joy in a different way.


Mary Jo’s parents lived a heart-breaking nightmare one holiday season. Their daughter had suddenly begun experiencing mysterious, agonizing pains in her legs, shins and thumb. Instead of celebrating with family and friends, they rushed Mary Jo to Texas Children’s. After some testing, it was discovered that her white blood cell count had plummeted to zero.

Mary Jo was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) – 44% of her blood contained leukemia cells. She had to start chemotherapy immediately.

Mary Jo’s mom, Dana, felt completely devastated. How could this have happened? Just a week ago, Mary Jo seemed like any other healthy little girl, laughing and playing and even swimming with her friends. Now her daughter was lying in a hospital bed struggling to survive.

The first week of her hospitalization was very difficult. Mary Jo had to receive extremely aggressive chemotherapy treatments to keep the leukemia from taking over her tiny body. In addition, her uncle died unexpectedly. Several of the doctors and nurses came to Mary Jo’s room after their shifts ended to sit with her so her parents could attend his funeral. Dana and her husband were amazed: “They were through with their work. They could have gone home, but our family was important enough to them to give more of their time. I never thought that kind of compassion would happen in a hospital.”

Dana added, “The doctors and nurses at Texas Children’s are tremendous. They truly have a gift to be able to work with very sick children and to care so much for them. It really tells you something about them when your child is not afraid to go to the hospital for her chemotherapy.”

Today, Mary Jo is cancer free! Through our Long-Term Survivor Program at Texas Children’s Cancer Center, we will monitor Mary Jo for the rest of her life.

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