St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital helping 6-year-old Mo. girl enjoy life
JEFFERSON CITY, MO (The Catholic Missourian) - Six-year-old Elaina Verslues is never afraid to go to back to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. In fact, it’s exciting for her.
Elaina is one of thousands of kids with serious illnesses who have been treated at St. Jude this year. For the second year in a row, Elaina, her brother and sister, and their parents Ryan and Jill, plan to attend this year’s Knights of Columbus St. Jude Walk-a-Thon, which will be held from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. on Saturday, May 10 at the Helias Interparish High School track in Jefferson City.
The event’s main sponsors are the Knights of Columbus Father Helias and Bishop Michael F. McAuliffe councils in Jefferson City, the K of C St. Michael Council in Russellville, the K of C St. Martin Council in St. Martins, and Schulte’s Fresh Foods grocery store in Jefferson City. Participants will raise money by soliciting and collecting pledges for each lap they walk during the event. Volunteers are needed to help staff the event.
As a baby, Elaina underwent surgeries and chemotherapy to help control the growth of an inoperable brain tumor. Since last year’s Walk-a-Thon, another tumor that was discovered in her midbrain in October 2006 has grown to the point that it is requiring treatment at St. Jude.
Doctors mapped out a 52-week regimen of low-dose chemotherapy, hoping to halt the growth of the tumor, which is also close to some nerve fibers that control her arm and leg movements, until she is old enough to have radiation therapy. They are hoping to hold off on radiation therapy until Elaina is at least 12 years old.
“We’re trying to help her have the best life she can possibly have,” said Mrs. Verslues. “Life is great for Elaina,” Mrs. Verslues noted. “She is a very happy little girl, and she never complains about anything.”
Diagnosed three months after her birth with a very aggressive tumor in her midbrain, Elaina had seven brain surgeries at the University of Missouri Hospital before she was 6 months old. The tumor — technically hypothalamic glioma cancer — had wrapped itself around her hypothalamus, as well as her pituitary gland and carotid artery, and had embedded into her brain stem. On top of all of that, she had lost all of her sight.
After her first craniotomy surgery, Elaina had a two-hour seizure, and doctors had to put her into a drug-induced coma for three days.
“After that, we had no way to know how badly her brain had been damaged,” said Mrs. Verslues. “They told us we could go for chemotherapy, or that she might be so bad off that we could just stop treatment and let her die.”
When the Verslueses decided to continue treatment, the doctor suggested St. Jude, one of the finest research hospitals for children in the world.
‘A wonderful, happy place’
The Verslueses arrived by car in Memphis in the middle of the night, knowing that their daughter might be restored to health at St. Jude or might die there.
“The minute we walked through the door, we could just feel this calming spirit, this happiness, all this hope that is in the halls,” said Mrs. Verslues. “It’s a wonderful, happy place. Children love to go there. We knew we were in the best place in the country and possibly in the world for curing cancers in children.”
There, Elaina and her parents met other parents who had babies in Elaina’s situation, and sometimes worse.
“It’s like a support group,” said Mrs. Verslues. “It’s like a whole new extended family. They know what you’re going through.” Whatever the Verslues’ insurance didn’t cover, the hospital pays for, along with Elaina’s epilepsy medication.
Her cancer was in remission by her second birthday. “She’s our little miracle,” her mother said last spring.
When Elaina was about 1, she began to regain some of her sight, reminding the rest of her family of the story about Jesus healing a man who had been blind from birth. When asked why the man had been so afflicted, Jesus answered, “It is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.” (John 9:3)
“That’s how we look at Elaina,” said Mrs. Verslues. “She gets people praying who haven’t prayed for a long time. She’s an inspiration for a lot of people. She loves life.”
Close to home
For Elaina’s current treatment, St. Jude is working with the University of Missouri Hospital and Clinics, meaning Elaina can receive most of her treatment in Columbia instead of Memphis. “We go to MU’s pediatric oncology unit once a week for the low-dose chemo,” said Mrs. Verslues. “That means we can stay home and live our normal life.”
Elaina is having eye surgery at St. Jude this summer on both of her eyes in hopes to improve her visual acuity. She has a neurological disorder called nystagmus ...
Rate This Article
Leave a Comment
More Diocese News
- Newman Centers are anchor of faith at public colleges
- A Pinprick to Revive Devotion
- Family celebration: Utah women travel to India to meet with sponsored children
- Deportation of Wis. eighth-grader reveals immigration policy's painful side to class
- Mandatory drug testing to be implemented in Oklahoma City Catholic high schools
- Catechesis of the Good Shepherd ‘hands-on’ religious education gets a look in Texas
- Food versus fuel: Is biofuel production to blame for our present food shortage?
- Spirituality key to the dying patient’s ‘quality of life,’ says Catholic doctor
- Bioethics battle is between contrary visions of the human person, says Rome professor
- Fr. Paul Schenck: Finding Living Faith on Catechetical Sunday
- The Movie Yellow: Incest as 'Normal' and Cassavates's Slides Into the World of Woes
- The Chicago School Teachers Strike Reveals the Need For School Choice
- The Sexual Barbarians and the Dissolution of Culture
- The Happy Priest Challenges Us to Ask: Who is Jesus to Me?
- Michael Coren on Canadian Public Schools: Teachers, leave those kids alone
- We Cannot Ignore Our Consciences: Cardinal Dolan On Religious Liberty
- In the Face of Danger, Successor of Peter Travels to Lebanon as a Messenger of Peace
- Reflections on the Dignity and Vocation of Women: Who or What?