Belinda has worked as a counselor in the hospital’s Mental Health unit for 10 years. Then in March 2015, she learned what it was like to suddenly become a parent of a child in the hospital as well when her son Grayson, then 2, was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. (AML). Going “home” after her shifts meant going upstairs to spend the night on the oncology unit next to her son’s bedside. While their world was turned upside down, made worse with the loss of a loved one and the loss of Roger’s job, the family would soon find a new meaning for the word “home” while living on the unit.
In August 2014, Grayson, who also has Down Syndrome, had routine bloodwork done with his family doctor. When his platelets were lower from six months prior and two weeks later fell again below normal range, he was referred to the hematology department at the Alberta Children’s Hospital. Weekly bloodwork at the hospital showed his platelets continuing to fall, though nothing else was a concern. A Bone Marrow Aspirate was scheduled for December to see if there was anything else going on. The first set of results showed minor abnormal cells, so the plan was to continue with monthly blood tests. Then, at his March appointment, Dr. Leaker told Grayson’s parents the second results from the BMA – which looked more closely at the cytogenetics of the bone marrow— revealed a marker for leukemia. They went back for another BMA the following week, but while meeting with Dr. Lewis about what his course of treatment would look like when the time came, results of bloodwork Grayson had earlier that revealed leukemia cells were already in his blood stream – only two weeks later. Rather than staying for the BMA, the family were told to go home and pack. They would be admitted that night. Two days later, Grayson began his first of six rounds of chemotherapy. After five months of treatment, he was able to go home. During this time, part of his treatment was managed by the Hospital at Home program.
The oncology staff became a family to them, with nurses coming in to chat and comfort Belinda while not batting an eye when Grayson would run around the unit when he was feeling well. Grayson was discharged a day before Belinda and Roger welcomed their second child, Gabriella! He has been in remission for over one year, but still returns every three months for follow-up.
Grayson’s parents are grateful for the staff on the oncology unit who made them a part of his care team.