My 17-year-old son Nick was playing hockey one day, and the next told me he had a severe stomachache. What occurred after that was every parent’s worst nightmare. Nick was diagnosed with anaplastic large cell lymphoma almost overnight. My son had cancer. For me, as a mother, the experience was terrifying and shocking. His illness took over without any warning. Within 2 weeks, Nicholas was in multi-system organ failure on a ventilator in the pediatric intensive care unit.
Nick spent over four months in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) at NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley, and during that time he was cared for by multiple medical teams. Not one physician disappointed me. The nursing staff was beyond incredible and still check up on Nicky even today.
The level of care far surpassed anything I could imagine.
His nurse Kat stood at Nick’s bedside for 12-15 hours daily. She knew and tended to every single detail of his medical needs with exceptional care and concern. When he wouldn’t eat she would pick up some of his favorite foods on her way into work. She is still in touch with us almost weekly to check in on Nick’s progress.
Once he was stable, Nick was transferred to the Oncology floor where he spent another 6 months undergoing the rest of his cancer treatment. He was cared for by a team of thorough, engaged, and fabulous doctors and nurses, and by extension, so was I. One nurse, Bernard, would spend all day helping him re-learn to walk. He knew when Nick needed some tough love and a push to get out of his wheelchair. He went into remission but soon after, he suffered a relapse of his disease and was quickly worked up for bone marrow transplantation. The Oncology team and the Bone Marrow Transplant team are part of the same department and as a result, the continuity of care was fluid and we felt safe.
Today, Nick has no evidence of disease relapse. He walks and talks and is finally a typical teenager. A stranger would never guess that he went through what he did. He is himself again.
As a parent, it is hard to express what it means to have a team of physicians and nurses who are so devoted to and so invested in the life and well-being of your child.
Through the ups and downs, the empathy from our caregivers was unparalleled, and to this day, I maintain that I couldn’t have wished for a better group of people to carry my son and my family through the most difficult experience of our lives. The doctors and nurses at Columbia Presbyterian saved my son’s life, and as a result, they saved mine too. These are people who have become, and who always will be, our dear friends and part of our family.