Two Children's Hospitals, One Expert Pediatric Cancer Care Team
August 09, 2018
A 3-Year Old Girl Fights Leukemia with Statewide Specialty Care
In October 2017, Givanna Ganthier of Asbury Park was running a high fever, complained of abdominal pain, appeared pale and was very fatigued. Her mom, Rose, knew something was wrong. After initial lab results from K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital at Jersey Shore University Medical Center suggested leukemia, Burton Appel, M.D., with the Children’s Cancer Institute at Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital at Hackensack University Medical Center, tested Givanna’s bone marrow and confirmed the diagnosis.
“When the doctors told me that Givanna had leukemia, I was shocked,” Rose says. “She was a kid who rarely got sick, and all of a sudden she was diagnosed with cancer.”
Diagnosis to Treatment
“With leukemia, the bone marrow produces abnormal white blood cells,” says Jessica Scerbo, M.D., a pediatric hematologist/oncologist at K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital. “Givanna was enrolled in a protocol of about two-and-a-half years of chemotherapy to eliminate existing abnormal cells and stop the production of new ones.”
Givanna started receiving an intense regimen of chemotherapy at Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital right away, staying there for daily treatments and close monitoring for nearly three weeks. Rose stayed by her daughter’s side every step of the way.
Nearby World-Class Care
By the time Givanna was able to go home, she no longer had any signs of leukemia in her blood. Still, she’d need to receive regular chemotherapy treatments on an outpatient basis in order to prevent the cancer cells from coming back. Rose was relieved to learn that Givanna could receive the ongoing care she needed at K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital, a five-minute drive from their home.
The pediatric hematology/oncology teams at K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital and Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital are both part of Hackensack Meridian Health. This statewide network provides patients with access to clinical trials that aren't available anywhere else in New Jersey. “There’s also the benefit of having providers from both children’s hospitals review a patient’s case as a group and come up with the best treatment plan possible for that child,” says Dr. Scerbo.
This year, K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital is also expanding its pediatric oncology services thanks to our pediatric hematology/oncology team of specialists and expanded access to services. Our combined Children’s Hospital cancer program at was ranked as one of the top 50 children’s hospitals in the country for pediatric cancer care. What’s more, is that we are the only cancer program in New Jersey to be ranked among the top 50 in the nation.
Convenience and Comfort
“Being able to receive cancer treatments close to home is a major benefit for families so they’re able to maintain as much of a normal life as possible while their children undergo cancer care,” Dr. Scerbo says. Today, Givanna still shows no signs of leukemia and continues receiving chemotherapy every few weeks. “She’s really blossomed as we’ve gotten to know her,” Dr. Scerbo says. “Givanna’s experience represents how providers collaborate together throughout the network to care for our patients.”
“Hackensack was wonderful, but I was so happy to find out we had the same level of care and the same specialists available to us close to home,” Rose says. “The facility at K. Hovnanian is so nice, the doctors are amazing and everyone is so welcoming. Every time we walk in there, everyone knows Givanna and they make us feel so comfortable.”
Pediatric Cancer: Searching for Answers
Back in September 2016, Olivia Vanderhoof was an energetic, outgoing 7-year-old excited to start 2nd grade in Hillsdale, New Jersey. That all changed when she began experiencing disturbing symptoms of a relentless fever, weakness and skin peeling.