Julian Ho is a thoughtful, big-hearted 14-year-old, and when he began donating his birthday money to help kids at the Alberta Children’s Hospital, he never dreamed that one day he would become a patient. Julian has leukemia.
A competitive swimmer with dreams to become an astronaut, Julian found himself unusually exhausted after swim practice last February. It was on a Thursday his family doctor ordered bloodwork, and it was that Friday he was admitted to the Alberta Children’s Hospital. Something was very wrong. By Monday experts had their answer: Julian, then 13, was suffering from acute myeloid leukemia, or AML. In that instant, his family’s world was turned upside down. “I have seen what cancer can do to people and it’s super scary. I never thought I would have to go through it myself,” says Julian. Julian began his first round of chemotherapy that very day, and almost every day since – whether in hospital or at home – he has had a specialist from the Alberta Children’s Hospital at his side.
The plan was aggressive: five cycles of chemotherapy, each consisting of between 21 and 23 days in hospital with just a few days between cycles at home. To compound his problems, Julian developed a severe fungal infection early on, which manifested as a rash and fevers. He required daily anti-fungal treatments both in hospital and at home. Julian’s appetite diminished and he became very weak from the medicine, but he was able to find distraction throughout the hospital – particularly the bingo nights.
Julian finished all five cycles in August and initially, all signs were positive. A blood test in November would reveal the treatment was not successful. Thankfully he has a dedicated team of experts by his side – and a new plan. Julian will receive a bone marrow transplant – his mother is the donor.
Julian started back in school in September and thanks to virtual learning, as well as the donor-funded Hospital at Home program, which sees a specialist administer anti-fungal treatments to Julian in the comfort of his own home, he has been able to keep up with his studies – he has to if he ever wants to become an astronaut and explore space.
Julian is forever grateful for the care he continues to receive, and the little extras – like the video games, the bingo nights, and the Child Life team -– that make his hospital visits more enjoyable. “When you’re going through chemo, it can sometimes feel like you’re stuck in a prison cell, but having those activities, it really does mean a lot.”
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