Leo was 5 years old and was diagnosed on April 6th, 2016 with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.
Leo was a happy, healthy, and very smart little boy. On April 4th, after complaining of arm pain, we took him to the pediatrician. After x-rays and some lab work, Leo was sent home. That evening while getting ready for bed, the doctor called, telling us to take Leo to Children's Hospital emergency room and that he needed a blood transfusion immediately. Leo's hemoglobin was so low they don't know how he walked into the office that day. The day before he was hitting buckets of baseballs!
After hours in the emergency room and getting stuck over and over for blood draws and iv placements, an oncologist came to talk to us. She informed us there was abnormal cells in Leo's blood, that they were not sure what we were dealing with, but it could be cancer. As parents, that brought us to our knees. Leo was admitted to the 9th floor oncology unit at 3:30 in the morning. At that point, life was changed. Leo had multiple blood transfusions to get him to a safe point for a bone marrow biopsy. Within hours of the biopsy we were sat down and told that our child had cancer. We had to wait 3 days for the pathology of Leo's cancer to come back, once it did, treatment began.
Leo began a 3.5 year treatment that consisted of chemo at least once a week or more either through his implanted mediport or into his spinal fluid. He had blood transfusions due to low counts. It was a long 3.5 years of many lows, but also some amazing highs, as Leo is one of the toughest and strongest kids we have ever seen! Leo learned how to swallow pills, which is something that doesn't typically happen with 5 year olds. He endured neutropenic fevers and seizures from chemo. Through every needle stick, test and procedure he stayed strong and amazingly happy. Today Leo is 12 years old, strong, happy, healthy, and in remission.
That happiness was in part due to this amazing organization. We came to know Lending Hearts upon Leo’s diagnosis and first admission to the hospital. The food provided to the oncology families on the 9th floor was welcomed when we were at the lowest point of our lives. As time went on, we learned more about the amazing opportunities offered to our family through lending hearts. When we were able, Leo and our family have been able to experience joy through Lending Hearts. Some of these joyful moments have included Pirates Games, Pittsburgh Orchestra Holiday Pops, meeting Pirates players, and taking part in painting the mural at the Roberto Clemente Museum. These moments of joy that Lending Hearts has provided over the years have helped all of us through the absolute worst times of our lives. We are forever grateful for Lending Hearts and the priceless gift of joy and memories provided to us through the kindness of everyone involved. The impact Lending Hearts has made on our lives and the lives of countless other childhood cancer families is greater than any words can express.