Children’s Healthcare, Piedmont Athens Regional help child fighting cancer

Asher Thrift, 5, is fighting a battle no child should have to face. Diagnosed with stage IV ganglioneuroblastoma, a rare form of cancer, Asher and his family are benefitting from collaboration between Piedmont Athens Regional and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta to aid him in his fight.

 

“Asher was having nausea and vomiting intermittently, and we weren’t sure of the cause,” Eric Thrift, Asher’s father, said. “Our primary care doctor thought maybe it was an intestinal issue, like inflammation, but when we saw a children’s gastroenterologist in January, they didn’t find any problems.”

It was then they visited the Aflac Cancer & Blood Disorders Center of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, where the team performed a series of tests and diagnosed Asher with ganglioneuroblastoma, a rare tumor that arises from nerve tissues. Approximately 6 percent of children are diagnosed with neuroblastoma each year, according to the American Cancer Society. Ganglioneuroblastoma is a rare form of neuroblastoma in that it contains both malignant (cancerous) and benign (noncancerous) parts.

“He started his chemotherapy treatments immediately at the Aflac Cancer Center,” said Eric. “His recovery process will take up all of this year, and we’ve been going to Atlanta every month for his chemotherapy.”

Through a unique affiliation, the Aflac Cancer Center is managing Asher’s care with support from Piedmont Athens Regional. Rather than making drives to Atlanta for weekly check-ins, the Thrift family makes a 10-minute drive to Piedmont Athens Regional, where he has his blood drawn and his catheter, a small tube where he receives his treatments, flushed. Lab results are sent to the Aflac Cancer Center.

“Being able to stay in town, rather than making that two-hour drive has been great for us. It’s honestly the best thing ever,” said Eric. “It’s so convenient for us, especially Asher, and the staff at Piedmont Athens Regional is amazing.”

Not long after Piedmont Athens Regional and Children’s announced their affiliation nearly one year ago, the teams set to work on enhancing care coordination and quality protocols for pediatric patients. As a result, Courtney White, child life specialist, was hired to provide pediatric patients like Asher a sense of understanding and control through therapeutic play and preparation.

“Asher gets to come in and see familiar, friendly faces,” Eric said. “It is great. I sit here in my chair and he sits in the bed, and Courtney will come in with a bunch of games and stuff. Then, he doesn’t want to leave!”

Decreasing the anxiety and fear that can come with visiting a hospital is one of the ways White strives to make a positive difference in the lives of Piedmont Athens Regional’s pediatrics patients.

“Each day is different for Asher, and we try to provide care for what he needs each time he visits,” White said. “The important thing is that I help him to understand what we’re doing while he’s here to make sure that he feels in control. No child should have to go through this, but Asher is a superhero, with an amazing attitude.”

For more information on pediatric services at Piedmont Athens Regional, visit athenshealth.org.

 

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