Joseph M. Sanzari Children's Hospital
It began with a low grade fever in August 2012. A common symptom of a "summer virus." But, it was much more than that. In the next few days, Natalie Gorsegner would become lethargic, broken blood vessels appearing in the whites of her eyes and a significant bruise developing along her hairline. Natalie's parents, Andrea and Dan, took her first to the pediatrician and then rushed her to the Emergency Department.
After blood tests, a team of doctors, nurses and social workers came to share the news. Natalie was diagnosed with high-risk acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a type of blood cancer. Natalie would begin immediate weekly chemotherapy treatments at the Children's Cancer Institute at the Joseph M. Sanzari Children's Hospital at Hackensack University Medical Center. Regular visits to the clinic for intravenous and spinal chemotherapy treatments, blood transfusions, and blood counts. This became Natalie's routine.
Natalie's treatment was often brutal. In addition to the many side effects, which include increased appetite, decreased appetite, weight loss, weight gain, nausea, vomiting, acne, diarrhea, mood swings, mouth sores, and low blood counts, Natalie would suffer serious complications, such as high fevers and infection. Cindy Steele, M.D., Natalie's primary oncologist at the Joseph M. Sanzari Children's Hospital, says, "Leukemia is different from other cancers because it's a cancer of the blood and bone marrow and not located in one organ as some of the other cancers are."
Because of Natalie's compromised immune system, she could no longer attend preschool and was forced to abstain from everyday activities. "We couldn't have playdates, or take Natalie to family parties or the grocery store..." says Andrea. "We were basically at home or at the hospital for ten long months."
For many patients, especially high-risk patients, the Joseph M. Sanzari Children's Hospital does become home. At the Children's Cancer Institute, the caring professionals understand the devastation that a diagnosis such as Natalie's can have on the entire family. A comprehensive program for children, adolescents and young adults, the Children's Cancer Institute offers patients a multidisciplinary approach to treat all types of cancer and blood diseases. Our Blood and Marrow Transplant Program is the only stem cell transplant program in the state of New Jersey and our medical team consists of some of the most prominent providers in their field.
What truly sets the Children's Cancer Institute apart is the commitment to compassionate, personalized care. From diagnosis to treatment, and beyond - our team is there for patients and their families every step of the way.
Natalie has completed her treatment and is once again the vibrant young girl she was before her diagnosis. She and her family remain close with Dr. Steele and the team at the Joseph M. Sanzari Children's Hospital. Although Natalie is a survivor, the Gorsegners will not forget her fight. In fact, Andrea and Dan realize that the fight against pediatric cancer is not over. They recognize that raising funds for pediatric cancer research remains at the forefront. "This is my way of fighting cancer. I couldn't control the cells in Natalie's body, but with this [fundraising], I feel like I'm kicking cancer's butt," says Andrea.
Just as the Gorsegners find power in fighting cancer by raising funds to further research and treatment for children, so can you. Because even if your child is not in need of care, you can be a hero for children like Natalie.