Kendal Rambousek photo

In Their Words

Kristin Rambousek
Asbury, Iowa

On July 6th our daughter appeared to be coming down with something. She was very pale, her lips had started to bleed and scab over, and her nose started to bleed. I called her pediatrician, and he advised we bring in her immediately. They ran a complete blood count (CBC) and a few other tests when we received earth shattering news — Kendal’s platelet count was 1, her hemoglobin was 4.2, and her white count was 0.2. They suspected she had leukemia. They gave me two hours to get home and to get her to Iowa City to have her evaluated by the Pediatric Hematology/Oncology teams.

We arrived at University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital about 6:30 p.m. and were greeted by a team of medical staff. Kendal was hooked up to IV's and more tests were run. It was the consensus of everyone I met that day that she had leukemia. I couldn't believe it. I didn't want to hear it. There was no way our 9-year-old daughter had leukemia. They asked me if I would allow a bone marrow transplant, and I was so angry at this disease that I couldn't even answer. I just wanted them all to leave. I just wanted to be alone with my daughter.

Kendal was allowed to rest for the evening and we would evaluate again in the morning. The next day was the day we met Kendal's angels (as we like to call them): Dr. Anjali Sharathkumar and Dr. Ahmad Al-Huniti. As soon as I met Dr. Anjali I felt a sense of peace. She came in Kendal’s room and sat next to me. I looked at her and begged her to tell me it wasn't leukemia. She told me in her heart she didn't believe it was leukemia, but I needed to trust in her to allow her to do a bone marrow biopsy to rule it out. I agreed.

Kendal’s biopsy was scheduled for that afternoon. We got her results and it wasn't leukemia but it was aplastic anemia. Kendal at this point had less than 5 percent cellularity in her marrow. This was caused by her seizure medication. It literally poisoned all of her bone marrow. They immediately started giving her blood and platelets, and Kendal began to perk up. We met with the transplant team to discuss a stem cell or bone marrow transplant. I told them she wouldn't need one. I told them she was a fighter and that she was going to beat this. I begged Dr. Anjali to give Kendal time to recover on her own. She agreed to give her six to eight weeks to show improvement before they would go ahead with finding her a donor.

Over the course of a few weeks we traveled to Iowa City sometimes twice a week for transfusions and platelets as well as Nplate. Dr. Anjali suggested Nplate as a stimulant to tell her bone marrow to wake up. Kendal was stuck on average five times a week. She was growing tired of it and wanted to be done. About eight weeks into this journey, her counts started to stabilize! Dr. Anjali and Dr. Al-Huniti agreed to give her even more time.

Fast forward to today. Our sweet girl has beat this demon. Her platelets are now 179k, her hemoglobin is 12.7, and her white count is 3.8. She returned to school with no restrictions. She is full of energy and full of life again. Because of Dr. Anjali and Dr. Ahmad, our daughter is still alive. They saved her life. All because they believed enough in my faith for my daughter and her will to live. I have no doubt in my mind that if it wasn't for them, she would not be here today.

There is no place I would trust with Kendal more than UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital. Every single doctor and nurse listens. They were never rude (no matter how many thousands of questions I asked). They allowed me to be a part of her treatment plan. I have never met so many selfless people in one place. We love our hero team!

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