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A Home Run for Casey

Family Finds Healing and Heart at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital

At age 5 ½, Casey (middle) was diagnosed with leukemia. Today, 13-year-old Casey - pictured here with his parents, Mark and Donna, and sister, Julie – is healthy and active and shows no signs of cancer.

June 2003 — Little boys have endless energy, so Mark and Donna knew something was wrong when 5 1/2-year-old Casey began tiring easily and complaining of joint pain. After consulting two pediatricians, they got an answer. It wasn't what they expected. "When the pediatrician told us he had low platelets, I thought Casey must be anemic. The diagnosis of leukemia took our breath away, Donna recalls.

Life-Defining Experience

Casey was immediately admitted to Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital for 28 days of chemotherapy. For 2 1/2 years after being discharged, he continued receiving chemotherapy at home and in the hospital. However, it was during the initial induction period, when intense chemotherapy puts pediatric leukemia into remission, that Casey's parents came to love and appreciate their home away from home at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital.

Mark and Donna call the medical care Casey received "unmatched." "The pediatric oncologists were awesome, and Casey loved them. They took care of the medicine so that we could take care of Casey," says Mark.

Today, 13-year-old Casey enjoys speaking on behalf of the American Cancer Society about his experience with leukemia.

Mark and Donna were also impressed with the care and concern of the nurses and support staff. "When you are hit with a diagnosis like this, all kinds of thoughts go through your head. You need comfort, and the staff is very nurturing," adds Mark. He recalls one incident when Casey was about to undergo spinal hemotherapy. "The nurse put Casey on her lap while he was given twilight anesthesia. He nestled into her shoulder, and she let him snuggle. The nurses went so far beyond standard care that it was like they adopted the kids."

Having a Child Life Specialist helped Casey deal with his emotions and understand what he was experiencing. Joe DiMaggio's resident clown, Lotsy Dotsy, also saw him through some difficult times by blowing bubbles and playing jokes.

Now five years post-chemotherapy, 13-year-old Casey shows no signs of cancer. He has grown into a mature and sensitive young man who enjoys speaking on behalf of the American Cancer Society. Donna left a lasting contribution to Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital by initiating a program that brings in teachers to assist hospitalized children with their schoolwork. Mark volunteers regularly for activities that make a difference in the community.

"Casey's leukemia was a wakeup call and a galvanizing moment for our family. We think of it as a bump in the road that changed our lives forever," Mark says.