When Gabriel Bateham became alarmingly unwell at the tender age of three, his family took him to HealthPark Medical Center in Fort Myers. “His pediatrician did not like how he was breathing and had a fever, but there was no Golisano Children’s Hospital at that time,” recalled Gabriel’s mother, Laxmi.
“His first two weeks were at the hospital,” she continued. “They thought he had pneumonia, so they treated him with a steroid, decadron. Decadron is used as chemo for cancer patients, so he became known as the Decadron Child.”
As his symptoms progressed, the care team recognized the signs and diagnosed Gabriel with acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL). According to the America Cancer Society, “acute” means that the leukemia can move quickly, and if not treated, would probably be fatal within a few months. ALL starts in the bone marrow, the spongy tissue inside bones where new blood cells are made. It develops from early forms of lymphocytes, or a type of white blood cell. Most often, the leukemia cells invade the blood fairly quickly and can also sometimes spread to other parts of the body, including the lymph nodes, liver, spleen and central nervous system.
For Gabriel, this meant weeks of medical complications. “He actually spent 4 days in ICU,” said his mom. “Gabriel came out not being able to walk at all; he had to relearn everything. We went through treatments for three years and four months.”
The port came out another year later, once Gabriel achieved stable remission.
Now, Gabriel is a senior at Cape Coral High School. He enjoys studying karate, and his favorite subject is history. More importantly, Gabriel is looking forward to seeing what the future brings. His goal? “Gabriel would love to be a writer after graduation. He is my artistic child,” explained Laxmi.
Despite everything, the Batehams consider themselves lucky. “We are one of the fortunate ones that lived. Although we’ve had our challenges, we have dealt with it,” she added.
Looking back on his experience, Gabriel has many good memories of his doctors and nurses. “Dr. Emad Salman and Dr. Craig MacArthur helped him medically and emotionally – and brought the everyday fun!” Laxmi remembered.
Another great support during the Bateham’s time of need came from Barbara’s Friends, the cancer fund of Golisano Children’s Hospital. “Barbara’s Friends is an amazing program and has helped not only us but many others that had the need and I would ask everyone to donate to help keep it available to those that need it,” said Laxmi.
Gabriel will participate in the Barbara’s Friends fundraiser, Clips for Cancer, on Friday, Sept. 18. He will shave the head of Dave Cato, chief administrative officer of outpatient services, who volunteered to undergo the razor in solidarity with the many children who are valiantly fighting the good fight against cancer at Golisano Children’s Hospital.