Children's Center Patient Stories
A child’s life is full of ups and downs, for Marshall, life was just that.
Marshall is a Kids Korner patient and already by the age of 14 has faced many challenges. Marshall spent the first six years of life with his biological family, then was separated and spent the next years in and out of foster care. In 2013, Marshall was adopted by Betsy Fisher.
Marshall was an active boy and still adjusting to his new mom, his new school and was working on overcoming many issues. In April 2014, they noticed a bump on his knee. Betsy scheduled an appointment with his primary care doctor, who gave him a referral for an MRI and then was referred to Shands. Within a short period of time, the results of the MRI came back positive and Marshall was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer. The same day he was diagnosed with cancer, they put his port in. “It all happened so quickly,” Fisher said.
In May 2014, Marshall had his first round of chemotherapy. Through their conversations with his doctors and with their own research they learned that Chemotherapy was an essential part of treatment and both chemotherapy and surgery are often needed. It was important for Betsy that her son was able to make his own decision and have as much control of the situation as possible.
In between his trips to Shands for chemotherapy, Marshall started making regular visits to Kids Korner. Upon meeting Marshall, it was important for our Child Life Specialist, Lauren Sherrill to build a trusting relationship with him. Marshall had behavioral struggles and did not trust others easily. Knowing this, it was important for Lauren to encourage him and speak positive to him. “Giving up on him was not an option, no matter how long a procedure would take,” said Sherrill. “His anxiety levels were very high, a simple finger poke would take up to 3 hours to complete. “ He was angry and upset – it was hard for him to process what was happening.
Marshall has built a long-lasting relationship with all the nurses in the Kids Korner.
In July 2014, Marshall decided to have an above the knee leg amputation. “I wanted the cancer out of my body,” Marshall said. Marshall has since received a prosthetic leg and has nicknamed it “Rexy” after the dinosaur theme on it.
“We’ve built a lasting relationship with all the nurses at Kids Korner and can be seen giving them high fives when he makes his visits. They will forever be part of our lives,” said Betsy.
Marshall is now finished with Chemotherapy and is happy to report his hair is growing back.
One evening, while going about her nightly routine, Jolanda McCoy noticed her four-year old son, Carter, had a low-grade fever. “Since there were no other symptoms, I did what I would normally do, and gave him the appropriate amount of fever reducer. He went to bed as usual,” explained Jolanda. The next morning Carter’s parents noticed that his eye was starting to swell.
Billy Joe and Jolanda immediately took Carter to the local emergency room in Cairo, Ga. He was admitted and monitored, but when his eye started swelling rapidly, Carter was transferred to the Tallahassee Memorial Children’s Center.
Soon after arriving in the TMH Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), a CT scan was performed on Carter and his medical team located an abscess behind his right eye. He was diagnosed with orbital cellulitis - a sudden, acute infection of the tissues around the eye. It affects the eyelids, eyebrow and cheek. The medical team needed to act quickly and Carter was rushed to surgery. “It all happened so fast,” Jolanda recalled.
A hospital can be a scary place for a sick child, especially in situations like Carter’s, but it doesn’t have to be. As the McCoys learned, Tallahassee Memorial has the region’s only certified Child Life Specialist on staff to provide kid-friendly explanations for tests and procedures, as well as procedural support. Lauren Sherrill, Child Life Specialist at Tallahassee Memorial, said, “I talked to Carter and told him the CT scan takes pictures of the inside of our bodies. And who doesn’t like to have their picture taken?”
The day after Carter’s surgery, Lauren introduced the McCoys to an evidence-based educational-behavioral intervention program known as Creating Opportunities for Parent Empowerment, or COPE. This program was originally created to help parents with children in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU), but Tallahassee Memorial became the first hospital in the country to apply the COPE program to children from two to seven years old admitted to the PICU.
The COPE program is designed to reduce stress for families with a child in the hospital, empower parents and caregivers to be actively involved in their child’s medical care and improve the overall outcome for each patient. It features a series of digital and written material for the parents and play activities for children. At TMH, the COPE program is implemented in the NICU and PICU.
Carter’s grandmother, Connie Saul, was by Carter’s side during the majority of his 10-day stay at the Children’s Center. “The program consists of great information and a workbook with activities for parents and their children to perform. The Jenny's Wish book was a favorite because, as an adult caregiver, it gave me a better understanding of how Carter felt,” explained Connie. “Carter particularly like the medical play because it gave him a way to participate and play out what was happening to him."
“It meant a lot to our family that he was able to play and somewhat forget about his illness during that time,” said Jolanda. “He received such outstanding treatment. TMH is awesome!”
According to Billy Joe and Jolanda, Carter is happy, healthy (with no vision issues) and back to playing with his friends and toys.
What started out as a week of spring break fun ended with a hospital stay for seven-year old Shelby Bassett.
“Shelby was visiting my sister in Tampa,” says Meghan Bassett, Shelby’s mom. “My sister called Thursday night to say Shelby wasn’t feeling well.” Shelby had stubbed her toe at school the week prior and stubbed it again. She had a fever and her toe was red and warm. “We drove to Tampa to pick her up.”
It was 12:30 a.m. when the Bassets arrived at TMH’s Emergency Center-Northeast. “Thankfully, parking was very convenient and we didn’t have to wait long at all,” said Meghan. Due to Shelby’s high fever, her pediatrician, Dr. Anna Koeppel, admitted her right away to the Children’s Center, TMH’s inpatient pediatric unit, for observation and an MRI.
A hospital can me a scary place for a sick child, but it doesn’t have to be. The Children’s Center has a child life specialist on staff to provide kid-friendly explanations for tests and procedures as well as procedural support. TMH Child Life Specialist Lauren Sherrill recalls, “I told Shelby the MRI looks like a giant doughnut, and we all like doughnuts, right?” “I used a picture book to show her exactly what the machine looks like and said it makes a loud sound, but it won’t hurt you.”
Osteomyelitis – an infection in the bone – was suspected. “Dr. Wong, the orthopedist, was great and so quick to speak to us after the MRI,” said Megan. Shelby spent four days in the hospital and was discharged, continuing her antibiotics.
Ten days later, Shelby had a fever of 102 degrees and was readmitted. She had developed scarlet fever, an infection caused by strep bacteria. “The infection settled in her fractured toe,” said Meghan. “I know scarlet fever can be very serious. I’m a pediatric nurse, but when your own child is sick, it’s tough.” A PICC line – a peripherally inserted central catheter – was prescribed for extended antibiotic therapy.
The trip back to the Children’s Center meant seeing familiar faces. Child Life Specialist Lauren Sherrill worked with Shelby again, this time to explain the PICC line. “I showed her where the catheter inserts in her arm and how it looks once taped up.” Explaining what to expect was calming for Shelby and her mom. Once she was feeling better, the art therapist visited Shelby and colored pictures with her – a comforting and familiar activity she does at home.
Shelby is fully recovered and doing very well. The Bassett family is grateful for her care at every step and especially the extra care given to make her comfortable and unafraid. “We were very confident with the care she received,” said Meghan.