When 6-year-old Sofia spiked several fevers over a seven-day period, her parents thought it was a virus, possibly a bad cold.
“But she was extremely tired all the time, and I just knew something was off,” recalled her mother, Alicia. “We took her to the hospital closest to our home.”
Doctors ran some tests. Then came the diagnosis: Sofia had leukemia. It was June 18, 2020.
“I was in shock; I was terrified. It was a real struggle to keep it together.”
Sofia spent seven days in the hospital. She had bloodwork done and surgery to put in a port for medication. She started chemotherapy. Then she transferred to Advocate Children’s Hospital – Park Ridge.
“Once she started treatment, she began feeling better right away,” said Alicia. “All the nurses, doctors and staff have been incredible and so supportive. Despite everything, it’s been a very positive experience.”
One thing that stood out to Alicia was the extra attention and care from the Child Life Team.
“When she had to get spinal taps, she didn’t even mind because she knew when she woke up, she’d get to pick a little prize. Things like that were huge for her.”
The child life specialists explained what would happen during her treatment and answered all her questions.
“I was really worried about her hair falling out, but her child life specialist used a doll to explain it. They did a great job and made sure she understood everything,” shared Alicia. “Sofia handled it better than I did. She just said, ‘It’s okay. It’ll grow back.’”
Through it all, Alicia says her daughter has been a real trooper.
“She’s been tougher than I expected. Before her diagnosis, she could be pretty dramatic about scrapes and cuts. But she’s really curious about the treatment and medication. She’s always asking questions about what the doctors and nurses are doing. She’s been very strong – stronger than I’ve been.”
Sofia’s journey inspired her family to give back. For her 7th birthday, they held a fundraiser and asked their friends and loved ones to donate toys through the hospital’s Amazon wish lists.
“We were also able to donate chemotherapy shirts for kids,” said Alicia. “Sofia received a chemotherapy shirt from the Child Life Team, and it made the treatment process a little easier and more comfortable for her.”
Sofia is now undergoing the final stage of her treatment, which will continue until November 2022. Her mom is grateful for her care team at Advocate Children’s Hospital – and for the generosity of donors.
“When kids are in the hospital and undergoing treatments and procedures, it’s so helpful to have something that can make them smile. It’s so important to give back and help make kids feel a little bit better.”
How you can help
The Child Life program at Advocate Children’s Hospital is funded through charitable gifts and helped make Sofia’s hospital experience a more positive one. To make a gift, click here. You can also purchase toys directly from Amazon on our Oak Lawn, Park Ridge or Wilmette campuses.