Amid laughter, and a few tears, a conga line forms at the end of the Infusion Center hallway.
“T.J. with all his nurses who took care of him for all these years,” Bridgett narrates in the video, as one nurse acts as traffic control, guiding the conga line out the door of the Infusion Center and over to the elevators of the Outpatient Care Center at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital.
It’s a special, bittersweet moment for T.J., who not only is celebrating his 21st birthday, but also his last IV treatment at this pediatric hospital. He has been receiving treatment for a rare immunodeficiency since he was 6 weeks old.
Bridgett, his mom, knows this hospital and its staff all too well. Way before T.J. was born, she was driving her younger brother to get the same IV treatments for the same diagnosis: X-linked agammaglobulinemia, a rare primary immunodeficiency occurring exclusively in males that prevents them from creating antibodies to fight off infection.
T.J. has to receive treatment every three weeks to replace his antibodies and ensure he can fight off infection. It wasn’t easy, especially being considered a “difficult stick” — challenging to start an IV or draw blood from. Thankfully, he found a nurse who could always get the job done and who he developed a strong relationship with.
“Leslie’s been with me for 17 years,” T.J. recalls. “Everybody knew, Leslie was the one who would start my IV line.”
Over the years, between his mom being diagnosed with cancer and the excitement of a new girlfriend, Leslie, along with the other Infusion Center nurses, became his confidantes. His family. This day marks a new beginning for T.J., but also an emotional goodbye.
“Right when I walked through the door, Leslie was there, of course — every time I go to the doctor, she’s there, and we hug every time. But this time, I knew that was my last time walking through that door.”
While the conga line ends with hugs of mixed sorrow and joy, Leslie is confident that T.J.’s strength knows no bounds.
“This is just another chapter in your life,” she says.