Family shares how St. Jude Children’s Hospital change their lives

Published: Apr. 13, 2022 at 11:03 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Imagine your child is so sick, that when doctors brought you updates, they were unable to hold back tears. That was the case for the parents of Piper Philips, who was being treated for a rare form of leukemia, that is often fatal.

But this family’s outlook on life completely changed the day Piper was admitted to St. Jude Children’s Hospital.

Piper Philips, now 9 years old, is blissfully unaware of the awful disease that nearly took her life seven years ago. She is perfectly normal and spends her days like most third graders, playing on the trampoline in her backyard, chatting with friends online and playing video games.

But Piper’s mom Lorraine will never be able to erase the memory of those harrowing days when little Piper started exhibiting symptoms, that seemingly, only she could see.

The toddler slept 18 hours a day. In her waking hours, she was constantly fussy, and clearly, it pained the child to turn her head.

Week after week of visits to the pediatrician and the emergency room produced no results. They would tell her the same thing, time and time again... until they didn’t.

“‘Nothing’s wrong, she’s fine. We’re going to sign you out.’ And my husband and I were packing up, getting ready to leave and the emergency room doctor fame back in and said, ‘she actually has leukemia,’” said Lorraine Phillips, Piper’s mom.

Childhood leukemia is one of the most curable forms of cancer there is, but not the type Piper had. The disease had spread to her spinal fluid. At times, it was like she was experiencing paralysis. There was round after round of chemo at a local hospital, but doctors made it clear the prognosis was bleak.

”I saw a couple of doctors would cry when they talked to us, so I knew it wasn’t good,” said Lorraine.

But behind the scenes, Piper’s dad Matt made contacts with the admissions team at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. The very day they took on her case, the family’s whole world changed.

“We get in contact with St. Jude, they send a plane into Richmond, and they pick up my wife and daughter and fly them directly to St. Jude Children’s Hospital for analysis,” said Matt. “And really do a deep dive into her situation.”

The doctors at St. Jude stabilized Piper. They performed tests to see if her big brother Nate could be a bone marrow donor, and it turned out he was the perfect match.

After literally a year of facing life or death decisions, Matt and Lorraine could breathe again - their little girl was cancer-free. And they know they owe it all to St. Jude.

”They sat down with us, took us by the hand and said, ‘look, we are going to do everything within our power to make sure that your child lives through this and they have a healthy, fruitful life going forward,’” said Matt.

St. Jude Children’s Hospital will provide Piper with yearly physical exams for the rest of her life, at no charge.

Copyright 2022 WWBT. All rights reserved.

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