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Young Boy Courageously Triumphs Over Leukemia

Family-Centered Care Provides Needed Support

Leukemia Patient Gains Courage, New Friends

October 2006 — Seven-year-old Dillon can be reserved around strangers, but if you ask about his Thomas the Tank Engine toy collection, he'll perk right up.

He cherishes those toys, and rightfully so. They helped him get through a lengthy bout with cancer that began in 2002, when a pain in his leg was accompanied by flu-like symptoms. Tests revealed he had acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a life-threatening cancer of the white blood cells.

Devastated by the news, Dillon's family reviewed his treatment options with Iftikhar Hanif, MD, pediatric hematologist-oncologist on the medical staff of Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital, Memorial Regional Hospital, Memorial Hospital West and Memorial Hospital Miramar.

"Dr. Hanif and the other doctors took the time to explain everything," recalls Dillon's father, Jimmy.

With the Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital family-centered approach and multidisciplinary treatment philosophy, "I felt at ease knowing we would receive a very high level of care," adds Dillon's grandfather, Jim.

For the next two years, the courageous toddler received chemotherapy treatments. Although the leukemia soon went into remission, a spinal tap in 2004 showed a relapse had occurred in his spinal fluid. To keep the cancer from spreading throughout his central nervous system, Dillon now required a more aggressive treatment protocol that included radiation therapy to the brain, as well as spinal taps to deliver chemotherapy directly into the spinal fluid.

Fortunately, the hospital's Child Life Specialists and a polka-dot-wearing clown, "Lotsy Dotsy," eased his fears and earned his friendship with play therapy and humor. His grandparents also cheered him up with a new Thomas toy after each chemotherapy session.

The hospital helped with practical matters by providing a licensed Broward County teacher, in cooperation with the Broward County School Board, to tutor Dillon when his ongoing medical issues kept him from school.

The hospital's attention to these details "allowed us to focus more on our son," says Dillon's mother, Denise.

Now in remission once again, Dillon's prognosis is as excellent as his attitude, according to Anne Schaefer, MD, pediatric hematologist-oncologist on the medical staff of Memorial Regional Hospital, Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital, Memorial Hospital West and Memorial Hospital Miramar.

"When I first met him, he wouldn't open his mouth, but now he's a chatterbox," she says fondly. "Working with these kids, we've become a family."

Cookie, Dillon's grandmother, agrees. "Dillon was so shy, but not anymore. The hospital staff took good care of us."

For more information about our Pediatric Hematology and Oncology Program call Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital at (954) 265-2234. For referral to a physician, call Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital Physicians Referral Service toll-free at (866) JDCH-DOC. We're available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.