Last year, more than 100,000 patients from across the region came to Connecticut Children’s Medical Center for world-class care. Nearly 2,500 of them visited the Center for Cancer & Blood Disorders—patient families like Gavin David’s.
Meet Lindsay and Neil David and their 4-year-old son Gavin, who was diagnosed with B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2017. They are among the 2,500 patient families who visit the Center regularly and consider it a second home. Learn how the family is learning to live with this aggressive type of blood cancer and how it affects their everyday lives.
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For iHeartRadio’s Weekend of Giving, Renee DiNino, Director of Community Affairs at iHeartRadio speaks with The David Family.
To listen to the live recording please click here to visit iHeartRadio’s Community Access webpage.
Renee: I’m trying to do this interview as normally as possible now, and I’m having this emotion come over me as I sit here talking to you, and you have to live through this daily. Having a child is the best gift. Take us through your journey, or as much as you feel comfortable.
Lindsey: When Gavin was 2 years old, he fell sick pretty rapidly. He had a fever, which the doctor thought might be an ear infection and for which he prescribed antibiotics, but something wasn’t right.
About a week-and-a-half later, we received a call and learned that he had B-cell leukemia and we needed to take him to the emergency room right away where they did some more testing. Then he was admitted to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit for five days. His port was put in and he started chemo right away, about 48 hours after he was diagnosed. Then we spent the next 26 days in the hospital.
Renee: Becoming experts on a disease you never wanted to know about.
Lindsay: Yes, very quickly. [When he was diagnosed, his white blood cell count was 480,000 (typical counts are in the range of 4,300 to 10,000) and 96 percent of them were leukemic.] But as of May 1st, he is in complete remission, and he was in pretty bad shape to begin with, so we were all relieved—my family and the team at Connecticut Children’s. It’s every emotional.
Renee: I’m sorry.
Lindsey: Diagnosis was March 28, 2017, he was in remission May 1, 2017. With leukemia they know how to put it into remission, but it tends to come back, so his treatment will last until July 20, 2020—the summer before he starts kindergarten.
Renee: Well, you have all our prayers on that.
What was it like going through that at Connecticut Children’s? Obviously, you had to rearrange your lives. Neil, can you tell us a little bit about Connecticut Children’s services and how they helped you navigate this?
Neil: The most important thing to understand is you have to be a parent, and you have to put your trust in other people—and it’s the most important thing. To stare at another person and expect them to save your child’s life… You fall in love with these people. They did exactly what they had to do, when they had to do it, and I can’t thank them enough.
Renee: Talk about your schedule because you have to maintain his treatment visits, and that must be overwhelming.
Lindsey: Right now we’re there monthly—unless he gets a fever. If that happens, we go to the ED immediately and are sometimes admitted as an inpatient. He does get chemo every day at home. The first eight to nine months was the most intense; we were in every week, sometimes a couple of times a week, and some of the treatment put us in overnight for a couple of nights.
Renee: You hear about adults going through chemo… I know the clinic staff see it all the time and it must be so hard. What is it like for kids battling cancer—overcoming the illness and what the treatment does to your system? How do you handle it now?
Lindsey: Kids are way stronger than we are. They don’t get as sick from the chemo; when you’re older, it affects you more and, luckily, Gavin didn’t get sick at all. He was so young when he was diagnosed, he doesn’t know the difference. He doesn’t understand that you don’t have to get chemo for everything, so the last time he was sick he said he wanted to go to the hospital and get “tubey.”—“That’ll make me feel better.”— “Tubey” is when they put the needle in his port to get his chemo. So, now he thinks that’s going to make him feel better all the time.
Renee: It’s kind of a reality check as a parent when that’s the norm. And as you put it, Connecticut Children’s really helped you get through. Especially when it’s cancer, no one wants to hear about that. It’s good to have you here to create awareness and to let others know they are not alone.
Lindsey: I think it’s important to note that we have an 8-year-old at home who was aware of what was going on, so this wasn’t just our only child, and sometimes you have to think about them more. Something like this happens and as adults we’re always getting second and third opinions, and you want to research, research, research. But in Gavin’s case we didn’t have the time to do that. And we had to put our whole lives in their hands, and I have not looked back once. They are like family. We leave clinic and we hear, “I love you” from the oncologists and nurses. I have a very good support group of friends at the clinic, all of our kids are in treatment right now. It’s wonderful.
I’m actually more scared about July 21, 2020, because we won’t be going there regularly anymore, and I don’t know how we’re going to get through this. They just become your family, your everything. It’s a great place to be. and we will always support them for the rest of our lives.
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