11 years old
When Alaina was found to have a potentially fatal disorder on her 11th birthday, her mom Katie feared losing her. Instead, thanks to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital®, the two were brought closer together than ever.
Alaina has a genetic condition called hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH) that causes her immune system to dangerously overreact. When Alaina's body encountered a virus or other threat, it ignited a response that threatened her life. "Her immune system, instead of wanting to clean the house, wanted to burn the house down," Katie explained. "It would have killed her."
Alaina's St. Jude doctor had treated HLH before. He placed Alaina on a treatment plan of chemotherapy and immune suppressive medications in preparation for a bone marrow transplant, which Alaina received just after Christmas last year. St. Jude has one of the world's largest bone marrow transplant programs dedicated to children, teens and young adults.
Families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing or food – because all a family should worry about is helping their child live. While staying in St. Jude housing, this mother-daughter pair found a positive side effect to Alaina's treatment: the opportunity to focus on being together.
"We went from having lots of siblings in a big house with lots of animals and all sorts of commotion, to just me and Alaina. She temporarily became an only child," said Katie. "It's transformed our relationship in a way." The level of support offered by St. Jude opened up an opportunity for "one-on-one time, a lot of snuggling, a lot of attention."
Today, Alaina is doing well, and she and her mom have returned home with a bond forged stronger by their time at St. Jude. Alaina is an outgoing young lady who absolutely loves doing arts and crafts and participating in pageants.
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital®, located in Memphis, Tenn., is one of the world's premier pediatric cancer research centers. Its mission is to find cures for children with cancer and other catastrophic diseases through research and treatment. St. Jude is internationally recognized for its pioneering work in finding cures and saving children with cancer and other catastrophic diseases. St. Jude is the first and only pediatric cancer center to be designated as a Comprehensive Cancer Center by the National Cancer Institute. Founded by late entertainer Danny Thomas, St. Jude freely shares its discoveries with scientific and medical communities around the world. St. Jude is the only pediatric cancer research center where families never pay for treatment not covered by insurance. No child is ever denied treatment because of the family's inability to pay. St. Jude is financially supported by ALSAC, its fundraising organization. For more information, please visit www.stjude.org.