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A NEW YEAR'S CHALLENGE
For the Williams family, greeting the coming year proved challenging. “We’re not really into staying up late on New Year’s Eve,” says Rose Williams. “I went to bed before midnight.” She and her husband, Raymond, live in Madera with their children, Isaiah, Ray and Jace. Their youngest felt ill leading up to Jan. 1, 2011. Jace’s constant fever, lethargy and loss of appetite concerned his parents. “He’s usually the biggest eater of our three boys,” says Rose of her 6-year-old.
Raymond took Jace to Kaiser Permanente Hospital early in the day New Year’s Eve. His fever climbed to 103. “The doctor didn’t really know what it was,” says Raymond. “She ordered blood tests and said we’d get a call later.”
Rose rotated doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen and gave Jace cold compresses and popsicles, but his fever would not break. They went to sleep suspecting the flu.
Running on empty
“My sister called right at midnight to say Happy New Year and she woke me up,” says Rose. She drifted immediately back to sleep and did not realize 90 minutes had passed when the phone rang a second time. “I thought it was someone else calling to say Happy New Year,” she says. “But when I saw it was 1:30 in the morning and the caller ID said ‘Kaiser’ I knew something was wrong.”
Instantly awake, Rose learned her son’s hemoglobin was dangerously low. “They asked me if I could get Jace to an emergency room within 45 minutes.” Rose buckled her sleepy son into the car for the 35-minute drive from their Madera home to the hospital in Fresno. As soon as the motor was running, she realized her tank was empty. “As I stood there putting gas in my car, all I could think about was how my mom always told me not to let my car go below a quarter tank because you never know when you’ll have an emergency,” she says. “I wasted 10 minutes pumping gas.”
With her tank refueled, Rose sped down the highway near 2 a.m. on a night notorious for drunk driving. “I actually wanted to get pulled over by the sheriff so he could escort me.” She made the trip in record time. “I went straight to Kaiser ER and they were ready for him.”
Jace’s fever spiked to 105.8 degrees and his hemoglobin was 3.1. An adult with hemoglobin that low would suffer heart failure. The sky was still black with night when Kaiser arranged a medical transport to Children’s Hospital Central California.
“I knew when they were going to Children’s that it was a better hospital for children,” says Raymond. “That’s what they do, they take care of kids.” By 6 a.m. the Williamses received the heartbreaking diagnosis. Jace had a form of leukemia found in only 4 percent of all pediatric leukemia cases.
“The disease is very rare, so the treatment plan is more of a challenge,” says Dr. Ruetima Titapiwatanakun, a pediatric hematologist/oncologist at Children’s Hospital. She immediately began inpatient chemotherapy treatments that lasted 28 days.
Refueled with hope
“They have such a genuine love for what they do and for these kids,” Rose says of her son’s healthcare team. “You can just see it, and you see a difference from adult medicine.”
After discharge, Jace’s cancer went into remission and he began weekly visits to the Craycroft Cancer Center for outpatient chemotherapy. He will continue receiving monthly treatments at the clinic for approximately two years.
“Jace’s health is almost a 180-degree turnaround,” says Raymond. “He keeps up with his brothers. He’s right there on their shirttails, not missing a beat.”
Rose credits more than Jace’s energy for his improved health. “Definitely prayer and faith are our biggest advantage and our strongest confidence,” she says. “It doesn’t matter what you drive. It’s who you love that matters.” Rose’s love for family keeps her gas tank from running on empty.