Madison McIntyre

After a long battle with the flu, Madison McIntyre’s symptoms never ceased. She was lethargic, feverish and dehydrated. Perhaps Madison was taking a little longer to recover, her mother, Michelle, thought. Erring on the side of caution, Michelle and Madison visited the Emergency Department at Children’s of Alabama. “Shortly after we arrived, she had some bloodwork done,” Michelle said. “After what seemed like hours, they came to share the results and let us know it was much more serious than a reoccurrence of the flu.”

Tests revealed the unexpected – leukemia. “Obviously, that isn’t what you’re expecting to hear as a parent,” Michelle said. “I felt like the staff handled the diagnosis with care, giving me confidence that they had a treatment plan to help Madison fight the disease. That was comforting.”

Diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), Madison was immediately admitted to the hospital and fitted with a port for chemotherapy. Several weeks into her treatment, Madison began complaining about stomach pains. “We thought it was just a side effect of the chemo, but her pain never subsided,” Michelle said.

Doctors discovered Madison was experiencing some internal bleeding. Exploratory surgery revealed Madison had a hole in her colon, a side effect of the aggressive chemotherapy. After a six-hour surgery, doctors repaired the hole to stop the bleeding and spread of toxins in Madison’s body. “It was a huge complication, but through it all, she never complained,” Michelle said.

Several months after surgery, Madison resumed chemotherapy. During that time, she formed special relationships with her nurses who helped her feel more comfortable during her hospital stay. “They were so great with her,” Michelle said. “They would paint her fingernails and toenails, play games with her, and even let her help with her treatments so that she could feel more in control of what was going on. For a 6-year-old, it could have been a very scary experience, but it wasn’t. We felt right at home.”

The staff at Children’s not only put Madison at ease, but also comforted her family. “We had our own insecurities and fears. This was a whole new world for us,” Michelle said. “The staff did a great job of answering our questions and explaining every step along the way. Even though we got a little off course due to her complications, they had a plan for that. And if there wasn’t a plan, they made a new plan. They made us all feel confident that she would receive the best treatment possible and that Children’s is where we needed to be. Children’s of Alabama is a place you never want to be, but if you are, you’re so thankful it’s here.”