MedWatch: Close to Home Care

Cancer is devastating to any family.

But when a child has cancer, families sometimes have to travel hours for treatment.

That’s one reason Munson Medical Center teamed up with Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, to try and make everyone’s lives a little easier during such a traumatic time.

Michelle Dunaway explains how the partnership works in this month’s MedWatch report.

“You can make, like, make clay, like I did with this tulip. I like making a little tulip and putting it on a piece of paper,” Kaitlyn Posey said.

Seven-year-old Kaitlyn Posey is a bubbly, vivacious kid who loves art.

It’s hard to tell this youngster is battling leukemia.

“I like to come to the art table, and when I get my treatments done, I get my port accessed and I get my medicine, like my heparin and my chemo,” Kaitlyn said.

It sounds almost foreign to hear those kinds of words come out of her mouth.

“I feel normal. It’s just, like, I don’t know, medicine flowing in my body. It doesn’t really feel weird. It feels cool,” Kaitlyn explains.

But this was not normal life when doctors first diagnosed Kaitlyn in July of 2015.

“It was devastating. She was a normal kid, active, a ball of energy, but she had been covered in bruises and I had been questioning it for a couple of weeks, and started asking my friends, ‘Is this normal?’” said Sara Posey, Kaitlyn’s mom.

When Sara noticed her daughter was getting basically bruises in her eye, her doctor ordered a blood test, and the results sent the family to the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids for two weeks.

“As long as she was in regular treatment, she would be receiving chemo every week and, oftentimes, she would receive a lumbar puncture with sedation and get chemo that way,” explained Sara.

That meant weekly trips to Grand Rapids for a year.

“When I have to go downstate it takes up my school time, and I don’t like missing learning,” Kaitlyn said.

That was until Kaitlyn got into the maintenance stage of treatment. Then she could get treatment closer to home.

“We want the kids to keep their lives as normal as possible. We want them to stay in school, we want them to stay connected to their friends, and that really helps both the children and their families,” explained Dr. Albert Cornelius, M.D., pediatric hematology oncologist.

That’s why DeVos has partnered with Munson, to make lives easier for the smallest patients and their families.

“The concept for the clinic up here in Traverse City actually came from the nurses. Munson oncology nurses knew there were patients up here that were having to travel long distances, and were wondering if there were some way we could incorporate pediatric oncology here,” Dr. Cornelius said.

“It’s much better being up here, and I just want to say thanks to my doctors for letting me do that,” said Kaitlyn.

“We were ready to be normal again, and that’s what I feel like we are. We are a normal family again, we can make plans and take weekend trips and things we just couldn’t do that first year,” explained Sara.

And the best part is, life is about to get even more normal for the Posey family.

“She will be done in September. Her port will be removed and we’ll still have monthly appointments here to check her counts and check her blood work, but no medicines after that,” said Sara.

Kaitlyn added, “Excited, because I think in a month or a couple after that I get to go on a cruise. We looked at it and it has a big waterslide.”

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