Although many of us enjoy the change in season from summer to fall that brings all things pumpkin-spice related, for the Dunlap family, it brings back painful memories of their son Johnny’s diagnosis at just 14 months old. It was the fall of 2013, and Johnny began having frequent fevers. After several doctor visits and an urgent care visit all resulted in suspected ear infection diagnoses, his condition continued to worsen despite the increasing amounts of antibiotic prescriptions.
After two weeks, a trusted pediatrician saw Johnny and immediately sent the family to DMC Children’s Hospital. Although Leukemia was suspected, Johnny required a transfusion before they could focus on the diagnosis. Afterward, he was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). He received a port and began chemotherapy while still admitted to the hospital.
“This time of year is hard,” said Johnny’s mother, Joyce Dunlap. “The fall is when it was all starting. He spent two weeks in the hospital, and he had just turned one.”
“We were both working full-time before the diagnosis,” added Joyce. Afterward, “we weren’t sure what to expect at the time, and we read a lot of bad things on the internet. Johnny responded well to chemotherapy right away, but it was still very hard. It’s just hard to believe it’s your own child; it was very surreal at the time.”
For nine months, Johnny received intensive treatment and is now into the maintenance stage through December 2016. At just three years old, he currently takes daily medication, sometimes 10 to 12 pills a day, receives chemo injections into his port every third week, and undergoes anesthesia for a spinal tap to inject chemo directly into his spinal fluid every three months.
It is a full time job to care for Johnny at home, and Joyce’s work denied her request for time off, putting additional stress on their finances. Until recently, they had been able to prioritize and stay on top of the mortgage and DTE payments while other bills mounted.
”In the beginning there were a lot of people and charities helping us, but this goes on for three years, so it’s tough,” said Joyce. “He needs me at home; I have to hold him to take a nap. He’s afraid of being alone. In the hospital, he would sleep on me in the rocking chair instead of in his crib.”
New Day stepped in to help the family by paying four months of their mortgage and DTE bills. Asked about a wish list item for Johnny, Joyce said she knew for sure he would want a bike, but they couldn’t afford it right now. Now Johnny has a new bike, thanks to the support of New Day and its generous donors.
“He was very excited, he loves it!” said Joyce. “He got on it and just went. It’s amazing how much (New Day) is helping us. We’ve been struggling for a while and we really appreciate it, more than we could ever express. I can’t tell you how much New Day has helped us.”