Emma-before-and-after

When your child is fighting for their life, it can be overwhelming to juggle hospital stays, learn all the medical terminology, and manage the family throughout the ordeal. The Garcia family discovered this firsthand when four-year-old Emma received a diagnosis of acute lymphoblastic leukemia, which propelled them headfirst into the chaotic, confusing world of childhood cancer.

Fortunately for the Garcia family, relief was just a drive away at Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida. Adjacent to HealthPark Medical Center in Fort Myers, it is the only children’s hospital between Tampa and Miami that offers lifesaving pediatric and oncology services from infancy through age 18. More importantly, the recovery rate surpasses the national average.

The caring, experienced team of healthcare professionals at Golisano Children’s Hospital already understands exactly how critical it is for parents to have adequate support while coping with their new reality. “Having a team of dedicated professionals to answer questions and guide us during the darkest moment in our lives was amazing,” said Emma’s mother, Jen.

When Emma was hospitalized, the staff tried to make things fun and manageable. “The music therapist and the child life specialist would always bring games, music and smiles to cheer her up. Without someone to help manage multiple hospital stays, it would have been utterly overwhelming,” Jen remembered.

Like most parents, the Garcias just wanted to focus on helping their daughter feel better. It made all the difference in the world to know they could lean on the team at Golisano Children’s Hospital for support. “Children shouldn’t be sick. We need people who can take care of them with compassion and skill,” said Jen. “The nursing staff was exceptional!”

During visits from the child psychologist, a complimentary service provided by the hospital, both Emma and her family worked to process their experiences with cancer psychologically, emotionally, and beyond.

Today, Emma’s cancer is in remission and the seventh-grader has a bright future ahead of her. “Every time I hug my daughter, I’m so grateful to the doctors and nurses at Golisano because without them, her path would have been very different. And trying to find something positive during that time was so much easier with the support of Barbara’s Friends.”

Barbara’s Friends, Golisano’s cancer fund, exists to ease the financial strain of the healthcare setting for families who need it most. More than half of the children treated by Golisano Children’s Hospital are uninsured, on Medicaid or have no form of payment.

One way that Barbara’s Friends offsets the cost of pediatric and oncology services is through its annual fundraiser, Clips for Cancer. During this fun, virtual event, young cancer patients from Golisano Children’s Hospital take a razor to the heads of prominent leaders from the Southwest Florida community – all in the name of a good cause.

On Friday, Sept. 11, you’ll meet Emma as she shaves the head of Anthony Milana, a Lehigh Acres Fire Control and Rescue District firefighter. “I am shaving my head to support the children who are battling cancer, as well as those who have already survived,” said Anthony. “It is an honor to have this opportunity to show these strong, brave children that they are not fighting their battle alone.”

Show your support for children like Emma by donating to Barbara’s Friends online here.