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KRMC provides a unique coping mechanism for kids diagnosed with cancer

Posted: 6:41 PM, Oct 10, 2019
Updated: 2019-10-11 16:14:23-04
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KALISPELL — Mother Jodie Hausmann tells MTN News she noticed something was wrong with her young daughter Everly in July.

"Everly had about a 105 degree fever for about a week, and after seeing our pediatrician in Missoula, we ended up in the Missoula [Community Hospital] ER...and found out from her blood counts that she was diagnosed with Pre B-Cell Acute lymphoblastic leukemia," Hausmann said.

The Huasmann family traveled from their home in Missoula to Kalispell, seeking treatment for two-year-old Everly's cancer. Pediatric Oncologist Carrie LaBorde says that the stem of Everly's cancer comes from a single white blood cell.

"Lymphoblastic leukemia is a cancer of a single white blood cell, particularly an early B cell lymphocytes, and that one cell has lost its ability to function as a normal cell so it doesn't know to die off," LaBorde said. "So, that one cell re-populates over and over, so we have what we call a clonal population of cancer cells."

With this devastating diagnosis, Hausmann noticed her daughter's personality changing. She told MTN News that a girl who she once called "Smilie" was withdrawn and scared.

"Everly had been a patient for about three weeks and hadn't smiled once," Hausmann said. "She was very sad and overwhelmed with the medications and the pokes from all of these IVs."

KRMC Child Life Coordinator Amy Rohyans Stewart saw Everly change and immediately came up with a unique coping skill -- a plush duck toy that was gifted to the hospital by Aflac.

The special duck helps young children diagnosed with cancer, like Everly, cope and understand their illness.

"(With) the duck we were able to start identifying those emotions, she was able to practice with her port, we were able to have fun, she was able to show me new things that the duck could do," Rohyans Stewart said.

All Everly has to do is hold on "emotion cards" to the ducks stomach and the duck simply acts out the different emotions. This helps Everly communicate how she's feeling to doctors.

Affectionately now named "Ducky," Hausmann says how grateful she is for this unique coping mechanism.

"She smiles, she laughs, you can give her a mad feeling or a sad feeling, and that was the first time Everly actually smiled or laughed in almost a month," said Hausmann.

Now with Ducky's help, Everly can laugh and play with her siblings and just be a kid. But, Dr. LaBorde says Everly still has a long way to go with her cancer treatments.