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St. Joe’s Gave Hope to Aubrey Hope

“Your daughter has cancer.”

When Lyndsi Hutson took her then 6-year-old daughter Aubrey to the doctor in April of 2020 because she was experiencing pain in her knee, she wasn’t too concerned. As a softball player Aubrey had her share of bumps and bruises, so when her doctor told her it was most likely growing pains, Lyndsi had no reason to think otherwise.

Until the pain didn’t stop. And then became unbearable.

A couple of trips to the ER and a visit to an orthopedist didn’t provide any answers.

“We couldn’t even get an MRI approved by our insurance company,” shared Lyndsi, “but I knew something wasn’t right.”

Two months later, Aubrey’s pain continued to worsen and Lyndsi noticed her leg had started to turn purple. Lyndsi knew it was time to take Aubrey elsewhere.  All her research told her St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital was the place to be – even though it was almost an hour away.

“I’ve always heard great things about St. Joe’s but it’s a bit far from us, so it didn’t seem to make sense to go there initially. But we were so frustrated and scared, and I just had this gut feeling it was where Aubrey needed to be. I am forever grateful we made that decision; I am sure it saved her life.”

Things moved quickly upon Aubrey’s arrival.

“As soon as we got to the St. Joe’s ER, I knew we were in good hands. They took her condition seriously right from the start and were so patient and kind to our whole family.”

The ER doctor started with an ultrasound which revealed a blood clot, but the medical team treating her wanted to make sure they were covering all the bases, especially given what Aubrey had been through already. They knew it was important to understand why a 6-year-old girl developed a blood clot.

“The blood clot explained the pain. Of course, it worried me, but I knew they could manage it. However, I wasn’t prepared for what came next,” explained Lyndsi.

Further testing showed Aubrey had a tumor in her pelvis pressing on her aortal artery and that’s what ultimately caused the clot.

Upon hearing the news, Lyndsi’s world felt like it was collapsing around her.  One minute her little girl was happily playing with friends, and the next she was facing down a life-threatening diagnosis: Stage 4 Rhabdomyosarcoma.

“It’s the worst possible news a parent can get, and yet I felt a sense of confidence in her care that I hadn’t felt elsewhere. And a sense that we were all in this together. From day one, St. Joe’s gave us hope and they never wavered from that path.”

The medical team at St. Joe’s came up with a plan to treat Aubrey’s rare cancer, and their Child Life Team went to work making sure their young patient felt loved and protected and safe. From yoga to arts and crafts to simply stopping by for a visit, they made sure Aubrey kept busy and felt as comfortable as possible. But that care and concern didn’t stop with Aubrey. When it came time to share the news with her two sisters, the Child Life specialist in the Cancer Institute was with the family to help explain things in terms the young girls could understand.

“It’s natural to focus your energy on your sick child, but we have two other little girls who are suffering too. St. Joe’s takes care of all of us. Aubrey isn’t just a patient. We aren’t just the patient’s family. Everyone here takes the time to get to know us. To make sure we are okay. When you have a long road ahead of you that matters so much.”

Aubrey’s long road consisted of 40 rounds of radiation and a clinical trial that involves two years of treatment, but the good news is she responded miraculously well after a single dose. Lyndsi is convinced she was guided to St. Joe’s saying, “God pointed me to where we needed to be. When, through her pain, your 6-year-old daughter thanks you for taking care of her, it only strengthens your resolve to move mountains to give her whatever she needs. There is a reason we wound up at St. Joe’s.”

Aubrey’s grandmother Renee was so impressed with the care her granddaughter received; she was inspired to help the other children she saw on her visits to the hospital. Her labor of love, called Aubrey’s Gifts of Hope because Aubrey’s middle name is Hope, has raised thousands of dollars to purchase toys and support special programs through the St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital Foundation aimed at making hospital stays a little less daunting for the kids in St. Joe’s care.

The effort has become a family affair, with Aubrey leading the way by delivering toys for other kids in the hospital.

It gives Lyndsi comfort knowing Aubrey’s journey has led to helping St. Joe’s support other kids get through a difficult time. It’s her family’s way of saying thank you, but she’s quick to note that she can never really repay them for what they did for Aubrey.

“Right now, Aubrey is cheering her team on from the sidelines, but she will be back on the field next year thanks to St. Joe’s. What they did for Aubrey, what they did for us – it has been extraordinary. They saved her leg. They saved her life. And they are part of our family now. I will never stop singing their praises.”