Julissa Garcia | Age 12

Virginia and Francisco Garcia took their daughter to Children’s Health for a swollen eye in February 2013. They were shocked when the doctors told them it was much worse than an eye infection. Blood tests showed Acute Myeloid Leukemia.

“My husband ran out of the room,” Mrs. Garcia said “He couldn’t breathe. He took it really, really hard.”

Julissa was 6 years old and had never heard of leukemia.

“I didn’t know what was going on, and then my mom came in crying. She told me I had leukemia. She explained it to me, and I was crying, too,” she said. “I didn’t believe what was going on. It was like a nightmare.”

Mrs. Garcia immediately quit her job.                 

“I could not leave her,” she said. “I slept there at the hospital. I showered there. I ate there. I never left.”

Julissa decided to shave her head when her hair started falling out.

“It could get a little bit rough and scary,” she said, but added that the Children’s staff seemed to know how to make things easier at each step.

“They gave me prizes for not crying, and when they gave me shots they were nice to me. Every time they said, ‘Think of something else,’ I thought of lollipops,”  she said. “They really helped me get through the hard times.”

She had to endure a seven-day stay in the ICU when a chemotherapy treatment made her sick.

Nurses always kept Julissa’s favorite movie, “Matilda,” playing in her room, and Child Life specialists decorated her room for holidays such as Easter.

Mrs. Garcia remembers a fun Easter egg hunt taking place in the Julissa’s hospital room, and she said that her daughter’s cheerful resolve became a source of strength for her and her husband.

After six months of chemotherapy doctors determined she did not need any more treatment, only monthly blood tests to see if the cancer returns. On her seventh birthday, she returned home. She got a puppy and started playing indoor soccer. She got on the A-B honor roll and later began playing the flute.

“We celebrated her birthday double,” Mrs. Garcia said. “I love the hospital. They didn’t just take care of my daughter, they took care of all of us.”

 

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