LOCAL PATIENT STORY (As told by the hospital)
13 years old
(ALL) Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia
The confetti and well wishes were thrilling, but the real icing on the cake at Caleb’s No More Chemo party in 2008 was finishing three years of treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). For his parents, Della and Clarkson, it was a happy ending to a journey that got off to a rocky start.
Caleb’s fight against cancer began in 2005 in the family’s home country of the Bahamas. For weeks, Caleb’s arms and legs hurt. His pain progressively worsened, and his lymph nodes became swollen. Despite several tests, doctors
found nothing wrong with the little boy. When the time arrived for a family trip to Florida, the doctor gave his approval for Caleb to travel.
But once in Florida, Caleb started experiencing terrible headaches. His parents took him to a local hospital, where doctors discovered he suffered from ALL, the most common form of childhood cancer. Caleb’s family was told he had only weeks to live if treatment didn’t begin right away. The family did not have medical insurance, and the hospital wanted $300,000 up front.
But an oncologist at the local hospital contacted St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, who agreed to accept Caleb as a patient if the family would commit to staying in Memphis for the first year of his three-year protocol. They had one evening to decide. Clarkson felt that whatever it
took to make their son better, they would do it. It was a mad dash to get to St. Jude. Della couldn’t believe that St. Jude made the flight arrangements for her and Caleb and paid for the tickets. St. Jude had told the family to monitor Caleb closely during the flight and check his temperature often. Caleb managed to hold off a fever throughout the trip, but as soon as he got to St. Jude, his temperature spiked and he was admitted immediately.
At St. Jude, Caleb began a three-year chemo- therapy protocol for ALL.
Today, Caleb’s cancer is in remission, and his family is grateful for the hospital that saved his life. Caleb’s family has never received a bill from St. Jude. And Caleb, a quiet boy who loves basketball and pizza, couldn’t be happier.