“I never imagined our lives would change so quickly in just a few days.”
One morning in April 2013, Meredith Hoiles’ 3-year-old son, Ashton, woke up crying with severe neck pain. Tylenol proved to be a temporary fix as Ashton’s health started to rapidly deteriorate over the next week. The once-cheerful boy became listless and pale.
When an enlarged lymph node developed in his neck, Meredith assumed the worst. “My husband and I knew something was very wrong. After a visit to our local pediatrician, I was horrified to hear the words, “Be prepared; Ashton most likely has leukemia,” she remembered.
“Our lives forever changed that day. Devastated, I didn’t know what to do. Where do we go?” said Meredith. “Fortunately, the care Ashton needed was right here at home in Fort Myers.”
With a racing heart and sinking stomach, Meredith and the family rushed to Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida. Adjacent to HealthPark Medical Center, the hospital provides local children like Ashton with convenient access to exceptional oncology and pediatric services. The experienced, compassionate care team at Golisano Children’s Hospital also has a recovery rate that far surpasses the national average.
Within hours of his admission, Ashton received a blood and platelet transfusion. Then, the pediatric oncology staff confirmed Meredith’s greatest fear: Ashton had acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). A chemotherapy port was implanted a few days later, and he started the first of many extensive treatments to combat cancer.
Golisano Children’s Hospital became a constant in the life of the Hoiles family for the next three years. “Although initially overwhelmed, I quickly realized the entire team did everything possible to keep Ashton comfortable and relaxed. We didn’t mind overnight hospital stays with Ashton because the nurses were so much fun, and the doctors were amazing! You could tell they genuinely cared for our family,” Meredith recalled.
“I will always think highly of those who touched our lives: the doctors, nurses, child life specialists, nursing assistants, therapists, social workers, and food service assistants. They all helped us through a very hard time. I cannot begin to thank them enough,” she continued.
Meredith later learned that many of these supportive services provided by Golisano Children’s Hospital are only available because of generous gifts made by others to Barbara’s Fund, the hospital’s cancer fund. Barbara’s Friends exists to help kids with cancer and life-threatening blood disorders whose families may require financial assistance, ensuring that every child can access critical oncology and pediatric services during their stay at Golisano Children’s Hospital. Donations to Barbara’s Friends help cover child-life services, infusion equipment, and the very best in medical care for children with cancer and other blood disorders.
“Today, thanks to the entire team, and to donors who support Barbara’s Friends, Ashton is a healthy and an active young boy. He enjoys dirt bike racing, and he won second place in his division this past season,” explained Meredith. “It is because others cared enough to support children battling cancer with gifts to the Barbara’s Friends fund that my husband and I were able to stay close to Ashton and maintain as much normalcy as a family as possible.”
Each September, in honor of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, Barbara’s Friends hosts an annual Clips for Cancer fundraiser to benefit young cancer patients. “Charitable gifts are essential to sustaining pediatric oncology and hematology services at Golisano Children’s Hospital. Many young families simply do not have the means to pay for their child’s treatment, which is why your ongoing support is needed,” said Meredith.
The Hoiles have made giving back to the community a priority for their family. “From the Christmas party at Lexington Country Club to the Helping Kids with Cancer Radiothon – we love to come out, share our stories, be with families that have all gone through this experience and help those families that are just starting their journey,” said Meredith.
This year, Clips for Cancer is going virtual! Tune in on Friday, September 18 at 8 AM to watch Ashton shave the head of the president of Florida Radiology Consultants, Thomas Presbrey, M.D., who volunteered in solidarity for the young patients undergoing treatment at Golisano Children’s Hospital. Dr. Presbrey and his practice also donated $40,000 to Clips for Cancer this year and encouraged @Lee Health leaders to brave the shave!