When Lucy Richard was diagnosed with leukemia, oncology specialists with Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Health helped her family find hope.
It was the kind of news that every parent dreads. At the tender age of 3, Lucy Richard of Church Point, Louisiana, was living life as any other healthy and vibrant little girl—with a sparkling smile and personality to match. However, she was treated for an illness that caused chronic fevers and proved unresponsive to antibiotics.
Lucy’s mother took her to their community hospital for a thorough examination and laboratory studies, which revealed an unusually high white blood cell count. But it was the presence of leukemic blasts in Lucy’s bloodstream that caused concern. Clinicians sent Lucy to Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Health for a pediatric oncology consultation. Testing confirmed that Lucy had a form of blood cancer known as acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
“A new leukemia diagnosis is serious and so scary for the family,” says Jeff Deyo, MD, PhD, medical director, St. Jude Affiliate Clinic at Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Health. “The patient needs expert oncologic care in a facility that has experience caring for them and all the possible problems they may encounter. For serious conditions, we become a new medical home for the patient. For less serious conditions, we coordinate care with the local provider to ease the travel burden on the family.”
A Plan of Action
Once the oncology specialists with the St. Jude Affiliate Clinic at Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Health confirmed Lucy’s diagnosis with special testing, they acted fast to begin treatment for Lucy’s cancer. This process included port-a-cath placement for blood draws and medication administration, coordination with a surgical team, the initiation of complex chemotherapy orders and a series of spinal taps for the administration of central nervous system chemotherapy.
“Lucy was so brave when she was admitted to the hospital with the medical team buzzing around her,” Dr. Deyo says. “She handled the situation very well.”
Taking a Leap of Faith
With her diagnosis, Lucy qualified for a clinical trial at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.
“After discussing the benefits of being in a clinical trial, Lucy’s parents agreed. Care was coordinated for Lucy’s travel to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital,” Dr. Deyo says. “This gave her access to leading-edge pediatric leukemia diagnosis and treatment.”
Clinicians in Memphis administered Lucy’s initial period of treatment, which she continues today, closer to home, in Baton Rouge at the St. Jude Affiliate Clinic.
“In the future, clinical trial enrollment will be conducted in Baton Rouge,” Dr. Deyo says. “Patients will only have to travel out of state for care not available on our campus.”
Road to Recovery
After completing the first two of three long phases of therapy to treat her acute lymphoblastic leukemia, Lucy began a regimen of maintenance therapy. That component of the treatment will last for close to two and a half years and is not as vigorous as her initial rounds of therapy. According to Dr. Deyo, the treatment will become more manageable for Lucy as time goes by.
During this phase, she is allowed to go to school and cautiously enjoy many of her regular activities.
To learn more about pediatric oncology and hematology care at Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Health, visit ololchildrens.org/cancer.
Specialized Care in Network
At Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Health, pediatric subspecialists experienced in a spectrum of diseases provide support for patients living with cancer.
“We could not do what we do without their help,” Dr. Deyo says. “It is nice to be an active service among a full team of pediatric subspecialists with expertise in so many areas of pediatric medicine.”
Clinicians also specialize in hematology, offering solutions for patients facing other diseases of the blood and blood-forming tissues, such as hemophilia and sickle cell disease.
Together with nurses experienced in diseases of the blood, hematology clinicians deliver sophisticated medical care, including regular screening of organ function and advanced supportive care to minimize risk for stroke in children living with sickle cell disease.
“Children from all over the state of Louisiana have access to state-of-the-art cancer care at the Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital and through our affiliation with St. Jude.”
—Jeff Deyo, MD, PhD, medical director, St. Jude Affiliate Clinic at Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital