Olivia’s Shocking Diagnosis

“When they got the blood test results, the technician’s face said it all”

After hitting all of her developmental milestones, Olivia’s mother was rather puzzled when her 19-month-old daughter refused to eat, didn’t want to walk and would fall asleep while playing. Thinking Olivia just wanted to be held, she would soon find out that Olivia was actually in pain when she walked. As luck would have it, the family had a previously scheduled trip to visit Olivia’s grandparents in Washington state. Upon hearing about his granddaughter’s strange behavior, because Olivia’s grandfather was a pediatrician, he examined her liver, spleen, lymph nodes and could tell they were swollen. He also observed that she was starting to display the telltale signs of petechiae, small red spots caused by bleeding into the skin. He then ordered blood work, and as the toddler’s blood was taken, the technician’s facial expression said it all. Olivia’s blood was like sludge. It was most definitely not normal, and her white blood count was extremely high.

Knowing time was of the essence, Olivia was life-flighted to Seattle Children’s Hospital where she was officially diagnosed with leukemia, a type of cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow. For the next 30 days, Olivia underwent radiation treatment and eventually she and her family were told that a bone marrow transplant was needed.

Such extensive medical treatment impacted the family’s living arrangements. Olivia’s dad was in the Army, so he was granted a year off to temporarily move the family to Seattle for his daughter’s medical issues. A year after her bone marrow transplant, the family moved back home to Washington, D.C. and Olivia’s treatment continued at Walter Reed Army National Medical Center Hospital. The radiation treatment, while necessary for her leukemia, resulted in young Olivia getting cataracts. The radiation also affected her skin’s pigmentation so she must treat spots on her skin on a daily basis with lotion.

Olivia’s family now lives in Texas, and she continues to require regular visits with cardiologists, endocrinologists and dermatologists amongst other specialty care providers. The significant upheaval of multiple moves and serious medical treatment has caused her to get a little behind in her education. Fortunately, like most six-year-olds, all she needs to cheer up is to watch “Frozen” or hear “Let it go” and she’s all smiles.


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