In December 2006, I was diagnosed with a pediatric brain tumor. Before my surgery, I was a typical teenager who felt invincible. But now I've learned not to take life for granted. I consider myself very lucky, since many of the children I met at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia are not going to lead normal lives.
While in the Intensive Care Unit, I met a toddler named Skylar. The smile on this charming 18-month-old charmed everyone, and he came to visit my room regularly.
His mother explained that his disease, spinal muscular atrophy, is gradually deteriorating his neuromuscular system so that every few months, he loses more of his ability to move. Soon this disease will affect his lungs and heart.
Skylar's life expectancy is only 3-5 years. I was shocked to hear this adorable toddler had only a few more years to live.
I asked his mom what she could do. And her answer was, "When you know your child only has a few more months or years to live, you focus on bringing happiness to every moment he has left. That is why I brought him to visit you. You have given Skylar an extra hour of joy that his short life would have otherwise been without."
Skylar loves to play in Children's Hospital's playroom, which donors help fund. His family cannot afford their regular hospital stays since Skylar is in the hospital more than he is home. Donations from generous people make it possible for him to get the treatment he needs.
We recently heard of new hope for improved treatments that could enable Skylar to live into his teens and beyond.
Visiting friends in the ICU
I met babies who had near-death experiences and watched their doctors bring them back from what they call a "code blue." One of my little friends, only 4 months old, had 16 compressions before her heart could beat on its own again.
I just visited Chaya and her mother last month, still recovering in Intensive Care. I was there simply for a follow-up checkup, and it was hard for me to imagine that they had been living at Children's Hospital during these past seven months.
Glad I came to CHOP
My surgery and recovery were amazing. While we have wonderful hospitals in the Lehigh Valley, when the doctors at Lehigh Valley found my brain tumor, they knew they had to send me to the Cancer Center at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
We are very fortunate to live in an area so close to Children's Hospital. It is ranked by Child magazine as the #1 children's hospital in the country. I received the most advanced medical care in the world.
Today, I feel great and am so appreciative of the outstanding care I received from the neurosurgeon, neurologists, physical therapists and many others who have helped heal me.
Because I've been so fortunate, my goal is to become a pediatric neurosurgeon.
By Shanna, October 2009