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Making a Mark
Making a Mark is published bi-annually by the CHOC Foundation. It features CHOC and children?s healthcare news, patient highlights, hospital updates, board member spotlights, and community involvement stories and is mailed to donors who support CHOC with a gift of $250 and more.

Little Emily

Little Emily Galvan rides around the hallway in a red wagon—her favorite activity of the day. Nearby, her favorite stuffed animals sit atop the bed in her room, and her clothes are hung neatly in the closet. Around 2 p.m., it’s time for her nap. Everything about this two-year-old girl’s life seems perfectly normal, other than the fact that it’s taking place at Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC).

When Emily started walking, her parents thought her “toddler walk” was adorable. According to her mother Regina, “Emily never quite seemed to get her step right when she was learning to walk. We thought she’d outgrow it, but her awkward gait persisted, so we bought her new shoes. They didn’t help, but we thought she was just learning in her own way.”

“Then, she started throwing up about once-a-day,” Regina recalls. “We took her to her pediatrician, who thought she may have a virus. Then she started throwing up twice-a-day, and finally, even at night. At this point we were extremely worried; we were instructed by our physician to take her to the emergency room at CHOC.”

As Regina and her husband Mauricio waited for their little girl to undergo a CAT scan, Regina wondered if maybe they’d find out what was causing Emily’s step to be off. Perhaps they’d even discover she just needed physical therapy.

When Dr. William Loudon, neurosurgery section chief and director of research for the CHOC Neuroscience Institute, spoke to Emily’s parents, the last thing they expected to hear was that he had found a very large mass in Emily’s brain.

“Over the next few hours, everything was a blur,” Regina remembers. “Dr. Loudon showed us Emily’s scan results and explained what we were dealing with: medulloblastoma; a highly malignant brain tumor. Not only did he find the brain tumor, but he also discovered a metastatic tumor that had spread to her spine.”

The very next day, Emily underwent brain surgery; Dr. Loudon was able to remove almost all of the tumor. Doctors would use chemotherapy to treat what remained.

“That was April 3, 2008; we’ve been staying at CHOC every day since, except for a few weeks. For the next year at least, Emily will receive rounds of chemotherapy; she gets chemo for a few days, then takes two-to-three weeks to recover. Then the cycle starts over again.”

Doctors used a new kind of treatment protocol on Emily whereby they collected some of her stem cells to help her recover from her chemotherapy. The stems cells, which can differentiate into many different cell types when subjected to the right biochemical signals, are injected into her body after a round of chemotherapy to help build up her immune system.

“Everyone on the oncology floor at CHOC knows Emily; she’s known as ‘the sticker girl’ because she loves to hand out stickers,” Regina says. “She smiles and waves at the other children on the floor, especially the babies; she loves babies! And she knows all of her nurse’s names.”

“CHOC is our second home. With the help of therapy, Emily learned to walk and talk here. Of course we are eager to return to our normal life, but in the meantime, CHOC has provided us with a comfortable place to call home. If your child is sick, CHOC is the place to be,” Regina concludes.


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chocChildren's Hospital of Orange County | UCI University of California, Irvine

Children's Hospital of Orange County is affiliated with UC Irvine Healthcare and UC Irvine School of Medicine

CHOC Children's - 1201 W La Veta Ave, Orange, CA. Phone: 714-997-3000. .