As Ezra Clark stepped out of the elevator and into the lobby of CHOC Children’s, his eyes fixed on the hospital’s sliding front doors, and he took off running.
“He ran through those doors and he stopped outside and he took in the air,” recalls his mother, Destiny. “It was really cool to see.”
That very moment was the end goal not only for the Clark family but also for CHOC physicians, nurses and staff throughout Ezra’s journey: After five months of treatment for lymphoma, the 5-year-old was headed home.
“As soon as we got home, it was like nothing happened,” Destiny says. “His feet hit the ground running right away.”
A few months earlier, Ezra was just getting over a bad flu. He had some lingering symptoms, which prompted Destiny and her husband, Josh, to take Ezra to the hospital.
It turned out though that Ezra’s symptoms were the product of lymphoma, a blood cancer that begins in the body’s immune system. He was immediately admitted and began treatment at the Hyundai Cancer Institute at CHOC Children’s.
Treatment was tough on Ezra, and Destiny and Josh watched their vivacious youngest son grow weak and detached.
“He went from this wild and crazy kid who didn’t walk, but ran, to suddenly becoming confined to a wheelchair,” Destiny says. “He lost his hair, and had barely any muscle movement. “
After initially declining visitors, Ezra came out of his shell during Family Night, a regular event where patients and their families often disjointed by unusual and difficult circumstances can reconnect over meals and activities.
“The whole family was there,” Destiny says. “Everyone got their face painted. Ezra was so happy. He played the drums and he was dancing. It was probably one of the best experiences and memories.”
From there, the old Ezra seemed to return. He ventured into playrooms. Ezra participated in radio shows at CHOC’s Seacrest Studios. He made friends with seemingly everyone in the hospital.
“Everybody – from his oncologist and his whole care team to child life specialists to the people in the cafeteria to the ladies who would clean his room – was incredibly amazing and genuinely cared about Ezra and his treatment and how he was doing physically and emotionally,” Destiny says.
Today, Ezra is back at home and back to his normal life. If his next scan turns out well, he’ll likely have his port – a small implanted device that eases chemotherapy administration – and gastronomy tube removed.
The Clarks still visit CHOC regularly for follow-up care – and while it’s definitely not home, the connection is strong.
“You can think of a hospital, but CHOC is family,” Destiny says. “This is personal. You aren’t a name on a chart. They know us and they know Ezra.”