Breaking your arm is practically a rite of passage during childhood. So, when seven-year-old Emma Lockhart ran to her parents complaining of severe pain, they assumed she’d fractured a bone and acted accordingly. After a quick visit to her doctor, the family received crushing news of another kind: Emma had acute lymphocytic leukemia, or ALL.
This rapidly advancing cancer forms in the spongy tissue of the bone marrow, where blood cells are made. Instead of creating mature cells, the disease develops from immature or early forms of white blood cells – or lymphocytes. In Emma’s case, her white blood cells expanded so quickly from the progression of the cancer that her bone fractured.
With the help of Barbara’s Friends, the second-grader spent the next two-and-a-half years in treatment at Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida. Its exceptional pediatric hematology and oncology program is the only one of its kind between Tampa and Miami and has served more than 8,000 patients since opening.
During her intensive treatment regimen, Emma and her family grew close to the team at Golisano Children’s Hospital. “Exceptional. Everyone at Golisano is exceptional,” said Emma. “They make you feel loved; you feel like family. Everyone from the techs to the nurses and doctors are compassionate. They help the kids understand what’s happening in a way that is not scary.”
This fall, Emma is entering sixth grade at Pine Ridge Middle School. She’s a wonderful artist; in fact, she recently won an art competition to design a T-shirt for Riverdale High School students. Emma also plays a mean golf game, bringing her competitive, fighting spirit to the links. After all, she knows how to win.
Out of a desire to give back to her community and thank her medical team, Emma has volunteered to participate in the virtual Clips for Cancer event taking place on Friday, Sept. 25. This annual fundraiser benefits Barbara’s Friends, Golisano Children’s Hospital’s cancer fund.
Established in 1995, Barbara’s Friends provides equipment, staffing and services to support lifesaving cancer care for children from across Southwest Florida at Golisano Children’s Hospital. No child is denied treatment or turned away as a result of their family’s inability to pay for care.
“The support of the community does make a difference,” said Emma’s mom, Keely. “Emma loves to participate in the events not only because she sees other kids that she was in treatment with, but also because Barbara’s Friends makes it fun – they help the patients feel special.”
Join Emma on Friday, Sept. 25 as she shaves the head of Natasha Salman, daughter of Golisano Children’s hospital pediatric hematologist and oncologist Dr. Emad Salman. After witnessing her father treat so many resilient and strong children with cancer, she wants to show her support.
“Witnessing my father treat so many children with cancer, I’ve seen how difficult and scary the battle is. These children are fighters, so resilient and strong” said Natasha. They are beautiful within, with or without hair. I want to remove my shield to stand in solidarity with those that had no choice to what has happened to them.”