Sammie's Story

Sammie's Story

Crisis, confusion, and cancer

At the young age of 12, Sammie was diagnosed with acute leukemia.

I went grocery shopping, came home and she was just lifeless on the couch. –Susan, Samantha’s mom

On June 1, 2002, Sammie went from feeling like she had the flu to very nearly dying. She became seriously ill so quickly that doctors at a nearby hospital thought she had acute liver failure. So they flew her to a hospital in San Diego for a liver transplant.

Just before the flight, Sammie fell into a coma. Her family was in disbelief, shock and immense grief. As she waited for a liver donor in San Diego, she stabilized and actually began feeling a little better, but not well enough to go home. After almost three months of waiting, she was eventually given a test that revealed she had acute leukemia.

Sammie needed to begin immediate treatment. The family knew this was going to be a long process so they wanted to be close to home. Without delay, they transferred Sammie to Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

"Sammie has such a positive attitude and she adds laughter wherever she goes." –Susan

A rough road into remission

Sammie formed an instant bond with her oncologist, Paul Baranko, MD. The first thing he did was assure Sammie that he would talk directly to her about every treatment, each step of the way. Nothing would be hidden and she would always be the first to know what was going on. The family was incredibly relieved to have a doctor who was communicative, thoughtful, and ready to do whatever it took to get Sammie well again.

But with chemotherapy came complications. Sammie was allergic to many of the treatment options. The medicines affected her liver, gastrointestinal system, pancreas and brain functions.

Finding the right therapies proved almost as difficult as battling the leukemia. Her visits to the hospital varied from three times a week to three times a day, depending on her reactions to the medications.

"Once they figured out her therapies, Sammie followed them until the signs of leukemia were gone." –Susan

Eventually Dr. Baranko found a balance, and after a two-year struggle, Sammie was finally in remission.

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