Masks and face shields soften the tone of her nurses singing happy birthday, but not the significance. Not the tenderness. Not the excitement, and certainly not the love.
“They love her so much she could be one of their own,” says mom, Sedracia, of the nurses and other staff members who care for the tiny leukemia fighter appropriately named Joy. “She smiled the first moment I saw her. You’re such a Joy,” she recalled thinking exactly two years ago.
Diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia at 9 months, Joy loves bubbles, balloons and most anything pink. Her mom bought Joy a mylar balloon and a princess scooter to commemorate this special day. But her greatest present couldn’t be wrapped in a neat little package. An anonymous donor’s bone marrow was transplanted into Joy’s failing bloodstream at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in March to fight the despicable disease. “Birthdays are really, really, important,” Sedracia says. “You never know if there will ever be a last one.”
But today, smiles fill the room — albeit one is covered in red, yellow and blue icing — the others are no less jubilant behind masks. For the child so fittingly named, the grins are wider now because today is extra special. It’s also discharge day for Joy. She’s going home.
“This is so exciting,” says mom, who has been keeping the birthday homecoming a secret from Joy’s two older sisters. They’ll sing happy birthday too and help eat the cake, probably not even noticing the few tiny hand-sized dents on the side.
Madison’s first year was full of challenges, but her first birthday party was full of love.
The degree of difficulty on graduation ceremonies is a bit higher this year, but like the rest of us the Johns Hopkins All Children’s NICU team makes the best of the situation with a little pomp and circumstance.
Stealthily and steadily a spirit of respect and recognition moves physically and virtually throughout the Tampa Bay region.
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