In late August 2016, after week-long high fevers that couldn’t be controlled, Dunnovan was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), a cancer rarely found in children. His condition rapidly deteriorated, and soon after he was on life support. He spent the next five weeks in the pediatric intensive care unit under heavy sedation as his army of medical professionals managed his treatment and care. Despite all their efforts, his situation looked grim, and his oncologist told us that we may lose our son. Miraculously, Dunnovan pulled through. Beginning with those early days, Dunnovan has spent the last nine months more or less living in the hospital as the treatment for AML requires 4-6 weeks inpatient followed by a week or so at home. On top of the standard chemotherapy courses, his oncologist informed us that Dunnovan should also undergo a bone marrow transplant because of the higher probability in his case of the cancer recurring. We learned that his big sister was a perfect sibling match, increasing the likelihood of success, and in January, the four of us left our home in Austin for Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston for what we hoped would be the standard 100 days usually required for conditioning, the BMT itself and ultimately recovery. Unfortunately, and quite unexpectedly, the BMT did not work. Soon after engraftment and even a cell “top off”, which required a second donation from his sister, the transplant ultimately failed. We were heartbroken, but moved on to attempt number two, this time with his father as donor. We are now waiting, hoping and praying each and every day for some sign of good news and the progress we have been longing for.
In a situation like ours, you can imagine how difficult it is to maintain contact with the outside world. Children undergoing inpatient chemotherapy and in particular a bone marrow transplant are extremely immunocompromised, meaning they don’t have the ability to fight even the most basic infection. As a result, they are isolated and enjoy very little face-to-face interaction with friends and loved ones. For Dunnovan this sort of solitary confinement is further exacerbated since we have had to leave home for a city where we have no support system. Hospital and other public wi-fi is often poor, and Hopecam provided Dunnovan with a wi-fi device that has helped him stay connected to family, friends and his teacher. We are truly grateful to organizations like Hopecam for everything they have done for Dunnovan and others fighting childhood cancer across the country. Thank you Hopecam!
Christina, parent of Dunnovan