Leading The Way in MIBG Therapy

Dawn Bartock

We are very fortunate to have Atrium Health’s Levine Children’s Hospital and an incredible pediatric nurse practitioner who is leading the charge with MIBG Therapy in our region.

Dawn Bartock, MSN, CPNP, CPHON, is the MIBG Therapy Program Lead at Levine Children’s Hospital. Being a nurse is all she has ever wanted to do. Dawn started her nursing career in Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, including time with Pediatric Hospice, then joined Levine Children’s Hospital from 2005-2011. She obtained her nurse practitioner degree in 2011 and left LCH to further her career in Pediatric Oncology at Texas Children’s Hospital and at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, where she was the MIBG Therapy Nurse Practitioner. 

After Levine Children’s Hospital got the green light to build an MIBG Therapy Suite, Dr. Oesterheld – Dawn’s mentor – tapped her to lead the MIBG Therapy Program literally from the ground up. So in 2015, Dawn returned to Charlotte and to Levine Children’s Hospital. What started as a side project while she was working clinically as a nurse practitioner on the inpatient oncology unit, has become a full-time position where Dawn oversees every aspect of planning and building the ISF MIBG Therapy Suite. 

“Being a part of the MIBG Therapy Suite construction process has been rewarding and fun,” said Dawn who is currently taking a break from the clinical part of her job, which will resume when the MIBG room opens later this year. “I feel like the jack of all trades and love been involved in this project.”

Not only does she bring her previous MIBG experience to her role and vision of what this state-of-the-art MIBG program should entail, Dawn has a connection to Isabella. During her first stint at Atrium Health in the outpatient clinic, Dawn was one of Isabella’s nurses who assisted the oncology team with writing chemo orders, scheduling scans, and helping Erin and the family with questions and concerns throughout therapy. 

“Isabella was always a sweetheart who had the sweetest little voice,” said Dawn. “One of my biggest memories of Isabella is the relationship she had with her brother, Grant, and them holding hands during clinic visits. It is very exciting to be involved in Isabella’s legacy.”

Levine Children’s Hospital will be 1 of 20 hospitals to have a MIBG Treatment room in the U.S. and the only location in the Charlotte region. The two-room MIBG suite will provide targeted radiation to pediatric neuroblastoma patients with minimal side effects. This will impact kids fighting cancer beyond the greater Charlotte region and will eventually expand to include adults with rare tumors.

“It is very important that we tailored the suite to the patient and the family while keeping safety for the patients and staff the top priority,” said Dawn.

Patients will stay in the MIBG room 3-7 days after they get their injection. The suite is designed with an adjoining room for parents to stay and to be more involved with the day-to-day care of the patient. The MIBG room will have a giant viewing window and a close-circuit monitor for staff to have constant video access – and even remote access – to the patient. Area organizations and businesses are helping fund items such as parent gift baskets, iPads for the patients and specialized sheets that patients can choose upon their arrival. 

“There is a lot of support in Charlotte with the Isabella Santos Foundation, other wonderful organizations and from throughout our community to create a welcoming, positive and comfortable experience for the patients,” said Dawn. “This is an exciting time for the Isabella Santos Foundation and Levine Children’s Hospital.”

We are looking for individuals who want to be part of providing comfortable care for the kids/families that go through MIBG Treatment. Our MIBG Ambassador Program gives you the flexibility of raising $5,000 the way you want to raise it… 100% of funds raised through this program will be distributed very specifically through our LCH partnership with this very targeted MIBG purpose. {You do not have to be located in Charlotte to participate, contact Tia for details}

 

5K Ambassador Spotlight: Derek and Tyler James

Derek and Tyler celebrating a post-race finish

As we gear up for the 11th Annual Isabella Santos Foundation 5K/10K for Kids Cancer this Saturday, we tapped one of our media ambassadors for some race-day tips.

Derek James, WCCB News Rising Co-Host/Staff Meteorologist, and his son Tyler will be among our ISF 5K race participants. An avid runner growing up, Derek got back into running races when Tyler was 7 and could run with him. They have run six races together and share these words of advice:

How did you get Tyler involved in running?

He saw me coach Let Me Run when he was 6 and so wanted to be on our team. He wasn’t old enough then but now I’m coaching a new team at Matthews Elementary now that he’s old enough to join.

 

Where do you enjoy running for fun?

Squirrel Lake Park is very close to our house so that’s where we typically go. It offers access to the Four Mile Creek Greenway which is a great place to run.

 

What is your most memorable race?

Tough to choose, but probably the Steve Smith Family Foundation Lace Up Son 5K. This was Tyler’s first race and it was in our town (Matthews). Tyler finished 1st in the 7 & under division and got his award from Steve Smith Sr. I ran my first Savage Race last year and that was an incredible experience as it was my first obstacle race.

 

What advice do you have for those who haven’t run before and are doing their first race at the ISF 5K/10K?

Derek: Find your perfect 5K race pace. Often on a first race you come out too fast and end up struggling somewhere near the 2-mile mark.

Tyler: Run slower at the start and then pick it up in the middle.

 

What do you both enjoy most about running together?

Derek: I love running with Tyler because it’s simple. Put on your shoes and go. Training alongside Tyler is more fun and we get to catch up and discuss anything on our minds.

Tyler: I enjoy running with dad because it’s a really good workout and it’s good to have together time and I love the training.

 

Do you have a favorite pre-race snack or meal?

Derek: Pre-race just a sports bar or a piece of toast, a little water and coffee.

Tyler:  I love a pre-race pasta and noodles dinner.

 

What’s your favorite warmup or stretch to do before run?

We like dynamic stretches leg swings and mountain climbers.

 

Running gear you couldn’t live without?

My Garmin for keeping pace.

Derek and Tyler with WCCB News@10 Anchor, Morgan Fogarty

 

If you could pick a song to push you through a tough part of a run, what would it be?

Derek: Tom Petty’s “Running Down A Dream”

Tyler: “I Love You I Need You” by Slushie

 

What are you most looking forward to at the ISF 5K/10K for Kids Cancer?

Derek: Getting outside on a beautiful morning and running a new course. Seeing other young people run in an effort to help other kids.

Tyler: I like that by running this race we get to help kids who have cancer and have fun while doing it.

Pounding for Parker

Parker and his brother

It’s no wonder why so many people are pounding for Parker. His strength, resiliency and determination are such an inspiration.

Parker was nearly seven years old when diagnosed with a very rare tumor on his spine. His cancer, which originated between one of his vertebrae, runs from his tail bone up into his lower brain. Because the tumor was mixed in with nerves in his spinal column, it was too risky to remove. So Parker underwent two different types of chemotherapy, which he completed in May 2017.

He also has more nerve damage in his left hand, but doesn’t let that stop him. Today, the fun-spirited nine-year-old is in third grade and has resumed school and his favorite sport – lacrosse. As part of his ongoing therapy, Parker continues to get monthly checkups and quarterly MRIs at Atrium Health’s Levine Children’s Hospital.

“He’s doing really well; living life like a normal kid and being a great big brother,” said his mom, Allison. “He has lots of energy, a good sense of humor and is very driven.”

Pounding for Parker Foundation check presentation to Levine Children’s Hospital

Because Parker may need additional therapy in the future and that there is no cure for his disease, his parents – Allison and Jonathan – launched the Pounding for Parker Foundation in 2017. The Foundation hosts an annual golf tournament, gala and other community events to raise funds to advance research for pediatric brain tumors and improve the quality of life for childhood cancer survivors. In its first year, the Pounding for Parker Foundation presented $100,000 to the Levine Children’s Hospital Brain Tumor Survivorship Clinic.

Among the organization’s fundraisers this year is the Pounding For Parker Foundation Gala. It will take place on Thursday, October 4 at 7:00 p.m. at Sweet Magnolia Estate in Cornelius. There will be a silent and live auction, chef-prepared food stations, beer, wine and live music. In addition, the silent auction will be online starting Thursday, September 27. For more information, to purchase tickets and to check out the silent auction, visit https://poundingforparker.org/event/.

“We’re excited to be in the Charlotte community and to give back to Levine Children’s Hospital,” said Allison. “Our doctors are like family and have really been there for us. We want to do everything we can to find a cure for pediatric brain tumors and come up with solutions for the many issues that pediatric cancer survivors face.”

An Army of Support

Emily and Kevin know firsthand the impact an army of support can provide a family during a crisis. Their daughter, Claire, was 19 months old when she was diagnosed with Stage 4 neuroblastoma in 2011. They received an incredible outpouring of support and wanted to do the same for other families fighting childhood cancer. So they created Claire’s Army to honor Claire – who passed away in January 2012 – and to continue her legacy of her love for others.

Claire

“Our friends, family, employers, strangers and the hospital teams did so much for us during Claire’s treatments and our time of grief,” said Emily. “We wanted to do for others what others did for us.”

Through Emily and Kevin’s grief counseling at KinderMourn, time spent with other hospital families and discussions with medical providers, they realized that not everyone had support when going through a similar situation. This led to creating the following core programs at Claire’s Army:

CLAIRE PACKAGES: Claire’s Army provides a package to a new family facing a childhood cancer diagnosis at Novant Health Hemby Children’s Hospital and at Atrium Health’s Levine Children’s Hospital. The Claire Package utility tote includes towels, a journal, a gas card and additional comfort items. Valued at $150, the package helps make a family’s hospital stay more comfortable and saves them a trip to the store.

MEAL PROGRAM: Claire’s Army has several restaurant partners and a team of volunteers to deliver made-to-order meals to families at Hemby Children’s Hospital five nights a week. Their goal is to expand to Levine Children’s Hospital in the near future. Since starting this program in February 2014, Claire’s Army has delivered 4,000 meals, which offset a financial burden, provide options beyond hospital food and foster family time.

EMERGENCY ASSISTANCE PROGRAM: Claire’s Army works through oncology social workers to pay for bills to help families who are suffering financially. Emergency assistance can range from mortgage/rent payments, utilities and travel needs to insurance. In one case, Claire’s Army was able to purchase an airline ticket at the last minute for a grandmother to fly roundtrip from El Salvador to attend her grandson’s funeral service. To date, the organization has provided nearly $30,000 of emergency assistance through this program.

“We want to be able to help in any way we can and to make an already awful situation suck less,” said Emily who also spent a few years as a nurse assistant at Hemby Children’s Hospital. “As a hospital provider, it was heartbreaking to see what families go through during a diagnosis, especially if the family was alone with no other support.”

Claire’s Army hosts an annual gala – which raised $200,000 this year – and other fundraisers throughout the year. Funds support these core programs, as well as pediatric cancer research through nonprofits like the Isabella Santos Foundation.

“Claire’s life was very brief, but very impactful,” added Emily. “We hope that the work we are doing is an extension of our love for her and her love for others. We want to carry that on and help these families one at time.”

On the Rebound: Cancer Can’t Keep Alex Sidelined

By Levine Children’s, 2018 ISF Sustaining Sponsor

Alex Brogran, Levine Children’s Bone Cancer Patient

Basketball was everything to 11-year-old Alex Bogran – until a sudden leg injury left him sidelined last year. When Alex’s doctors couldn’t find a break or fracture to explain his worsening pain, they called for an MRI.

The results of the MRI were grim: Alex didn’t have an injury – he had osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer. “It was scary, but I knew everything was going to be okay,” Alex recalls of the diagnosis. “Everything works out in the end.”

For Alex, treatment would be far from easy. It required months of chemotherapy, plus a major surgery to remove the tumor and replace his knee. But his positive attitude never waned, making one thing clear: Treating cancer is tough, but Alex Bogran is tougher.

The full-court press of cancer treatment

Alex’s treatment required top specialists in oncology and orthopedics, and Levine Children’s Hospital was just the place for him to get all the cancer care he needed. “We’ve got some of the best in the country here, so it’s pretty incredible,” says Javier Oesterheld, MD, a pediatric hematologist and oncologist at Levine Children’s.

The first stage of Alex’s treatment was chemotherapy, which is hard for anyone, but it’s especially difficult for kids and their families. 

Knowing that, Alex’s care team put an idea into action: They devised a backpack that lets patients like Alex complete almost all of their chemo treatments at home. “I think that really changed things for him, to be honest. You saw a new Alex,” says Dr. Oesterheld. “You saw a much brighter, happier kid. That’s really the reason why we offer it.”

For the things that still required him to go to the hospital – like his surgery – Alex’s care team did everything they could to make his time at LCH as comfortable as possible. “It was hard, but they really helped me through it. I look at the positive thanks to them,” Alex says. 

A slam dunk for a more normal life

Since his knee replacement surgery, Alex has hit a lot of milestones. But there’s one milestone that surpasses them all: In February of 2018, Alex celebrated his last round of chemotherapy. 

These days, Alex is in physical therapy, where he’s learning to walk again. And one day, he’ll re-learn to jump, so he can get back on the court doing what he loves most.

Alex will continue to see his Levine Children’s care team frequently, to make sure the cancer isn’t coming back, but he’s well on the rebound. And through it all, Alex’s positive attitude has persevered, as has his never-failing belief that everything always works out in the end. 

Levine Children’s Hospital is part of Levine Children’s, a network of care for kids that includes hospital programs, as well as neighborhood pediatric offices and urgent cares. Year after year, LCH is named one of the nation’s top children’s hospitals by U.S. News & World Report for their life-changing care in more than 30 specialties.