Baby Luke refused to eat. Red bumps covered his face. He had unexplained bruises, a cold, and an eye infection. His skin was pale. He slept constantly. A cow’s milk allergy was blamed until a pediatrician discovered his enlarged spleen. In January 2014, at ten weeks old, he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML).
Six months at Beaumont Children’s Hospital and four rounds of chemotherapy later, Luke achieved remission. In August 2014, he was transferred to C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital for an allogeneic bone marrow transplant. He relapsed in October. His high-risk leukemia was considered terminal.
During a clinic visit in November, Luke became faint and landed in the ER. His doctor wasn’t sure he’d leave the hospital alive. He spent two days in the PICU, recovered, and moved to the cancer floor. After a week, he coded, was intubated, and rushed back to the PICU.
“I was asleep at the Ronald McDonald House (RMH) across the street when I got the call that Luke wasn’t breathing,” says Luke’s mom, Vicki Briganti. “It was terrifying.”
A room at the RMH inside Mott was provided so Luke’s parents could be nearby during his final hours. “It was Thanksgiving and food was donated,” says Vicki. “Having something to eat and a place to sleep during those dark days was a blessing.”
Miraculously, Luke survived. He had a tracheotomy and was on a ventilator in the PICU for six months. He did physical therapy and enjoyed wagon rides around the floor. A recent bone marrow biopsy showed he no longer had acute leukemia, but a different form called Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS). Doctors were perplexed and amazed by Luke. Friends and family prayed for remission.
“Caring for a critically ill child is challenging,” says Vicki. “RMH has been on our team the whole time. Their remodeling efforts are fantastic. They even created a space for Luke’s dad to work remotely. I hope donations pour in so they can keep improving services, upgrading their facilities, and helping families like ours.
*This article is written in memory of Luke, who passed shortly after the story was written. His parents, Vicki and Doug, wanted to celebrate his life and share their experience. Our thoughts are with their family.