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Sick Kids Hospital: Joe’s Story

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Gymboree Play & Music in Canada fundraising in support of Sick Kids Hospital
Gymboree Play & Music in Canada fundraising in support of Sick Kids Hospital

All the Gymboree Play & Music locations across Canada are doing an amazing fundraiser for Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto, Ontario. Despite having more then enough hospital experiences with our own Children’s Hospital here in Vancouver, I don’t have any first hand experience with Sick Kids, so I asked our family friend Marianne Gallinger to share her son Joe’s story. This is what she had to say:

Joseph was eleven in February of 2011 when he started to feel pain in his tailbone area. I brought him to our family doctor who told us to buy a doughnut (inflatable circular cushion) for him to sit on. Seven months later he was still having pain so I brought him to our local hospital and asked for an x ray. They told me they didn’t want to expose him to radiation and again for him to just use a doughnut to sit on. Six months later in March of 2012 we got a new family doctor so I brought Joe into see him. He examined Joe and told us that he had very tight ham strings. He sent Joe for physiotherapy. After six weeks of physio Joe was walking with a very wide stance and complaining of pain in his right leg. He was in terrible pain and couldn’t get comfortable no matter what position he tried. I brought him back to our family physician and he sent Joe for an x ray to see if he had hip dysplasia. After waiting three days for the results and getting frustrated because of the pain he was in I decided to bring Joe to Sick Kids in Toronto. Admitted through the ER, they did an ultrasound of his abdominal area and an x ray of his chest. They found a 13 cm mass growing off of his sacrum. They told us the next day that Joe had cancer. Ewing’s Sarcoma was the type and that he had spots on his lungs as well. We were in shock and mortified as a family. The first question Joe asked me was “am I going to die?”

Joe started an aggressive treatment plan September 1, 2012. He had five days of chemotherapy and the the following week he would have two days of chemo so this cycled every two weeks. He had 14 cycles of chemo which ended up being 49 days of chemotherapy. After cycle seven (about half way through) Joe started radiation at Princess Margaret Hospital. He had 31 rounds of radiation on his abdominal area. Then in May after he finished chemo he went for ten more rounds of radiation, this time on his chest to treat his lungs.

Joe During and After Treatment
Joe During and After Treatment

As devastating as this was to our family, I believe that Joe had the best care. The Sick Kids team was amazing! We dealt mostly with a fellow who was under Dr. Paul Nathan, his name was Jeorg Kreuger. He was excellent at answering all of our questions. If they didn’t know the answers he would find out for us and they were very diligent about talking to Joe and explaining what was going on to him, not just talking about him to us. We are very happy with him and Dr. Nathan. We also had an exceptional social worker named Carly Nishimura she helped us with so many issues that we needed to deal with. She was also there for a listening ear. And last but not least there are the amazing nurses on the 8th floor. These staff are just so exceptional. They do everything in their power to make the kids and parents comfortable and happy – they treated him like a friend and were constantly joking with him.

At Sick Kids there were many special visitors. The Toronto Maple Leafs and Football Club came to visit, and we even had a surprise visit from Billy Baldwin! There were activities like pool and bingo for the kids and for the ones who couldn’t leave their rooms it was on TV for them to see. They got a game board and if they got bingo they could call and get a prize.

Meeting Toronto FC team members, Leaf's players and Billy Baldwin!
Meeting Toronto FC team members, Leaf’s players and Billy Baldwin!

Sick Kids hospital treated us so well – they are still treating us well. There is nowhere else on earth that I would rather take a sick child. We have been blessed to live so close to Sick Kids and I am praying that Joe’s cancer doesn’t return, if it ever does I know that he will have great care from a wonderful team of people. Joe still has a 4 cm tumour that is inoperable but stable. He looks great and feels great. It is all because of the many prayers and the great care that he received at Sick Kids Hospital.

Thanks to Marianne and Joe for sharing your story. Sick Kids Hospital is truly a world class facility with incredible staff. Please help us at Gymboree support their amazing work – for every $5 donation to Sick Kids, you will receive $25 off your enrollment until the end of December. Spread the word and give these kids a great Christmas!

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