Just before Independence Day last year, then-14-month-old Lucas Massengale had been running a low-grade fever. At first, his parents thought he might be teething. When they took him to the doctor, they were told he likely had a virus that was running its course, said Lucas’ mother, Ashley Massengale.
But the fever didn’t go away, and Lucas stopped smiling and playing. The family took Lucas back to the doctor where a blood test led to his leukemia diagnosis, Massengale said.
The family was able to meet with the team at Atrium Health Navicent HOPE for KIDS even prior to the official diagnosis, and the care they received made all the difference in coping with a leukemia diagnosis and his treatment, Massengale said.
“We came to Beverly Knight Olson Children’s Hospital and met with the oncologist from HOPE, so before his diagnosis, it was not much of a shock because we already knew what to expect. The staff had prepared us on what to expect,” she said.
Receiving treatment at Atrium Health Navicent Beverly Knight Olson Children’s Hospital has meant that the Massengales didn’t have to travel far from their home in Gray while also caring for Lucas’ three older siblings.
“We can drive here, and have them close. It’s been a big help,” Massengale said. “Every person here that we’ve worked with has felt like family. They treat him great. He loves them.”
Lucas is now a happy, playful 2-year-old in remission who likes watching TV and sports.
In observance of Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month this September, physicians at Atrium Health Navicent Beverly Knight Olson Children’s Hospital invite the community to join in celebrating patients’ successes and supporting those who continue to fight. This month is a time to honor children with cancer, childhood cancer survivors, children who have passed away from cancer, their families, and all of the health care providers, researchers and caregivers who are dedicated to improving the lives of children with cancer.
After accidents, childhood cancer remains the second leading cause of death among children ages 1 to 14, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). The most common types of cancer diagnosed in children ages 0 to 14 years are leukemias, brain and other central nervous system tumors, and lymphomas.
For children coping with cancer in central and south Georgia, Atrium Health Navicent Children's Care Pediatric Oncology offers world-class cancer care close to home. The family-oriented pediatric oncology program is able to diagnose and treat various pediatric cancers including leukemias, lymphomas, tumors of the liver, kidneys, bone, muscle and nerve tissue. Affiliated with the Children’s Oncology Group, Atrium Health Navicent Beverly Knight Olson Children’s Hospital is able to offer the latest in clinical trials, closer to home.
Atrium Health Navicent HOPE for Kids — which stands for Hematology Oncology Place of Excellence for Kids — offers outpatient clinic services for children with cancer and blood disorders. The center believes that care for complicated medical conditions such as cancer should be delivered in a comfortable environment close to home. The facility is equipped with an onsite laboratory, infusion center, educational library, playrooms as well as child life specialists and family therapists.
Some of the services offered at HOPE for Kids include:
Medical play, supported by certified child life specialists, to help patients become familiar with medical equipment and procedures such as blood draws and port-a-cath accesses.
Support and distraction to help children cope during blood draws and port-a-cath accesses.
Diagnostic teaching to help patients understand cancer and blood disorders on their developmental level.
Sibling support to help siblings cope with having a brother or sister with a chronic illness.
Normalization activities such as video games and arts and crafts to help patients and families feel comfortable while receiving treatments.
Additional inpatient services, including inpatient hospital care, surgery, pathology, pharmacy, radiology and radiation oncology, sedation, and care provided by chemotherapy certified nurses, are available on the same campus at Atrium Health Navicent Beverly Knight Olson Children’s Hospital.
The care team at HOPE for Kids believes that special moments are meant to be celebrated. When a child completes cancer treatment, they are treated to a special “bell ringing celebration” to mark the occasion! This celebration, which is shared with doctors, nurses, family and friends, signifies their victory and progression to post-treatment life.
“Excellent pediatric cancer care is available close to home, and with all the services offered at Atrium Health Navicent Beverly Knight Olson Children’s Hospital, central and south Georgia’s only dedicated pediatric hospital,” said Dr. Abigail Cruz. “We recognize that children aren’t just tiny adults. We offer specialized care for children, tailored to their bodies and their needs. Children and their families are at the center of everything we do, from diagnosis to the amazing bell-ringing celebrations we share at the end of treatment.”
For more information about HOPE for Kids, call 478-633-2694. For help finding a doctor, or to learn more about children’s services, visit childrenshospitalnh.org.