Texas Children's Cancer Center Steps in to Save a Young Family

Texas Children’s outsmarted a “tricky” blood disorder to save Brooke’s life.

Our daughter Brooke had been a normal, healthy baby up until August 2003. So when she started getting high fevers at 18 months old, we attributed it to teething or a summer cold. When her temperature kept getting higher and higher over the course of several days, we took her to her pediatrician.

Our pediatrician could find nothing wrong and figured the fevers would just run their course. Then Brooke's temperature reached 105 degrees one night, and we went to the emergency room.

In the ER, physicians ran tests and referred Brooke to Texas Children's Hospital. For the next several weeks, the doctors at Texas Children’s ran various tests and tried different treatments searching to find the source of the problem—which by then included peeling skin and a rash on Brooke's lower body. Brooke was in and out of the hospital. It was an extremely frustrating time for us, but thankfully the doctors and nurses were always reassuring.

During our second 10-day stay in the hospital, doctors performed a bone marrow aspiration, which enabled them to diagnose her. Brooke was suffering from hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH), a rare and devastating blood disorder. HLH is a very tricky disease that may masquerade as several other, much more common illnesses in children, including prolonged viral infections, hepatitis, some skin disorders or other illnesses.

Thankfully we were under the care of a brilliant physician, Dr. Kenneth McClain. We feel certain that if we had been anywhere else other than Texas Children's Hospital, Brooke would have been easily misdiagnosed.

For the next three months we visited the Cancer Center weekly—sometimes two to three days a week—so that Brooke could receive chemotherapy treatments, the protocol for treating HLH.

The amazing staff in the Cancer Center quickly became our best friends. Ours days spent on the 14th floor were very long, yet comfortable. There was always a Texas Children’s staff member checking to make sure that Brooke was well cared for. Actually, the staff was just as concerned about us, the parents, as they were about Brooke, the patient. The nurses, doctors and staff were all compassionate and truly a joy to visit with.

Unfortunately, the chemotherapy only suppressed the disease; it wasn’t stopping it. Dr. McClain recommended that Brooke receive a bone marrow transplant, which required us to spend more than two months in the hospital. Yet again, we encountered fabulous doctors, nurses and staff.

Today, Brooke is 8 years old, healthy, happy and full of spunk! Thank you Texas Children's Hospital for the outstanding care that we received, and God bless all the amazing staff and doctors.

Billi Jo Hausman

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