Matthes Family

Submitted by Jill Matthes

Iowa City, Iowa

"My husband, Reggie, and I have twin girls that were born October 21, 2013 - 10 weeks early. They spent 7 weeks in the NICU with your wonderful nurses, nurse practitioners and doctors. Chloe was first to come home on December 5. Abigail was able to join us on December 10. We spent 28 days at home adjusting to our new life when our world was turned upside down on January 7, 2014. After listening to a concerned mother and days of trying to get a handle on what seemed to just be constipation, her pediatrician, Lori Christensen, ordered an abdominal x-ray. Due to concerns with the imaging, we were sent to the hospital for an abdominal ultrasound to look at her liver shortly after. This ultrasound lead us immediately to the Pediatric Specialty Clinic where we met Dr. Graeme Pitcher. I was told initially that based on the ultrasound, her age and statistics, that Abigail most likely had a hepatoblastoma (malignant cancer of the liver) and that it was LARGE. Later we would find out that it was the largest liver Dr. Pitcher had ever seen in a child her size. No words can describe the feelings you experience when you are told your child probably has cancer, but thank goodness for Dr. Pitcher. Immediately he exuded a confidence that conveyed that he not only cared about my child, but also allowed me to be able fully trust him with her care.

The following morning, Abigail had an abdominal CT. Due to the size of her liver, Dr. Pitcher performed a liver biopsy within hours of the CT. After the biopsy, he returned to tell us that she did not have cancer, but that he believed she had diffuse infantile hepatic hemangiomas. Although we were celebrating that she did not have cancer, did not have to go through chemo and/or radiation and potentially a liver transplant, Dr. Pitcher warned us that her condition was still very serious. Children with hepatic hemangiomas typically present with heart failure - something Abigail did not have, but was at extremely high risk for developing. If that had happened, it was unknown what her prognosis would be.

In the months following, Dr. Pitcher followed Abigail very closely. My husband and I were always confident in the care he provided. Dr. Pitcher has always been open and honest and has always advocated for her during the course of her treatment. In addition to Dr. Pitcher, Abigail is also seen by Dianne Atkins who initiated the propranolol treatment for her hemangiomas. Dr. Atkins, now retired, has also been so great and so helpful during this time. Dr. Larson Ode follows Abigail as well for her thyroid function as a result of her hemangiomas. Dr. Larson Ode is wonderful and persistent in the treatment of her hypothyroidism.

One year later, Abigail is such a wonderful, happy and thriving little girl. Even better, is that at her last appointment with Dr. Pitcher this last December, we were told that if she has not had any complications yet, he didn't foresee her having any at all!

I apologize for such a lengthy story, but it's important to me that I FINALLY express my gratitude. I'm sure you hear every day how great all of your pediatric staff are, and there is certainly a reason. While Abigail's diagnosis hasn't been one that everyone has been entirely familiar with due to the lack of research, our dream team (Dr. Christensen, Dr. Pitcher, Dr. Atkins and Dr. Larson Ode) has always done everything to advocate, educate and treat her. You can't place a value on being able to trust someone else with your child's health. You also cannot place value on being treated like a PERSON, rather than another patient, surgery or story - something we never felt working with these doctors. They have made us feel important and confident in the care she was getting. I tend to be an emotional person, and often stumble over my words when trying to express my feelings. Especially when it involves my children. So, hopefully these words will make their rounds as I have not yet been able to express even a portion of my gratitude. These people have been a godsend! A simple 'thank you' seems so inadequate. We are beyond grateful for all of you!"

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