As many families prepare for their annual holiday celebrations and family gatherings, this year’s plans look very different than last year for 3-year-old Harper and her parents, Meagan and Josh.
In 2019 just a few months before Christmas, Harper was transported to Seattle Children’s on an emergency flight from Yakima, Wash. after blood tests in a local emergency room revealed she had leukemia, a cancer of the blood.
At a mere five months old, the diagnosis that their child had acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) was both shocking and devastating to Harper’s parents, but they took comfort in knowing that she was in the best hands possible with a team of experts in Seattle Children’s High-Risk Leukemia Program.
ALL and AML are two kinds of aggressive and treatment-resistant leukemias. This lineage switch of cells from ALL to AML is rare and occurs in less than 5% of infant ALL cases.
After months of specialized treatments including medication and a bone marrow transplant, Harper’s parents and care team decided the next best step was to enroll her in one of Seattle Children’s Hospital’s CAR T-cell immunotherapy clinical trials, in partnership with Seattle Children’s Therapeutics.
T cells are white blood cells, and the goal of this immunotherapy is to reprogram a child’s own T cells to seek out and destroy cancer cells wherever they are hiding in the body – and it worked.
“The doctor came in and told me that her leukemia was at like 0.08 percent, and I just broke down in tears because I couldn’t believe it,” Harper’s mom Meagan tearfully shared in an interview with KOMO News.
Through all the ups and downs, Harper’s parents were by her side, and Josh didn’t go to work for six months. The family has four other children to care for, but thanks to Seattle Children’s enduring mission to provide compassionate, transformative care to all kids regardless of a family’s ability to pay, Meagan and Josh were able to focus on what mattered most.
“As parents, you are blinded going into something like this and just think that the bills are going to be piling up eventually,” Meagan explained. “But no, our social worker helped find all of the resources and made sure we didn’t have to worry about anything. From rental help to power and water bills, he made sure we had anything and everything that we needed. It was just amazing.”
Harper’s first Christmas was spent in the hospital, and then again in transplant housing for her second Christmas. But this year will be different.
Meagan and Josh are thankful that this year, they can focus on the little things- like decorating their tree and choosing a few gifts to put under it.
“Harper enjoys looking at picture books and is learning how to walk right now. She loves to swing, so we are thinking of maybe getting her a small one for Christmas,” Meagan said. “But then again she is also such a little thrill-seeker and likes exploring, so we might do some gymnastic playmats.”
And spending this year’s holidays at home is just what the doctor ordered.
“When we were at the hospital those past few years, the doctors and staff were there too,” added Meagan. “They were all amazing, made our family laugh, and made the stay a little easier. I’m so grateful to Seattle Children’s and wouldn’t want to go anywhere else.”