Our son Colt had been sick for a few weeks. What doctors initially thought was migraines was getting worse – he was suffering from painful headaches and vomiting, and he seemed to be stumbling a lot. We took him to our local emergency room, and what we learned there was beyond anything we’d imagined. A CT scan identified a large tumor in his brain that was blocking his fourth ventricle. Colt was diagnosed with a medulloblastoma, a fast-growing, high-grade tumor. He was just four years old.
We were devastated. We thought it was a death sentence for our little boy.
I remember the doctors sat us down and told us they needed to operate to remove the tumor the next day. My husband and I looked at each other, and we knew we wouldn’t be comfortable having anyone other than the pediatric neurosurgeons at University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital caring for our little boy.
Within 8 hours of his diagnosis, we were in an ambulance on the road from our home in Toledo, Ohio to Ann Arbor. We were terrified but we knew we were going to the right place.
The difference between what we’d been through so far and what we found at Mott was like the difference between night and day. With every member of the team we met, we felt better and better about our decision to bring Colt here. It was clear that our surgical team – led by pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Hugh Garton – was very familiar with this type of cancer and the surgery that would be needed to remove the tumor. It was very reassuring. They explained everything that would happen – even though things were happening extremely fast, we felt informed and confident.
Colt was at Mott for 10 days after the surgery, followed by nearly 7 weeks of radiation last summer and then 6 months of chemotherapy.
Along the way, the Child Life team was instrumental in helping Colt through many difficult, stressful situations and helped him find a way to smile and feel like a kid even though he was very sick. We also loved the private rooms and TV’s with movie selections.
Another thing that was special at Mott was the opportunity to be a part of clinical studies. At every step of the way the doctors and nurses let us know if Colt was eligible for a study. We ended up being enrolled in several studies – one in particular that gave us access to an innovative therapy that doctors at Mott are helping evaluate. Aside from giving Colt access to the most up-to-date treatments available, we were happy to be able to help ensure that kids with Colt’s diagnosis in the future will be benefit from what is learned from research we participated in, just as he benefitted from what has been learned from past clinical trials.
I have never met a surgeon that was as personable and caring to a family as Dr. Garton was. He was honest with us about what could happen, but we felt better because he was so compassionate and confident about what they were doing. Sitting through a 12 hour brain surgery was unbearably difficult, but it was so nice to have this level of confidence in the Mott team and what they were doing.
Every employee from janitor to surgeon goes above and beyond to provide the best medical care while making things easier for patients and families. We have had many many experiences over the past year when staff stayed late or went the extra mile to make things easier and more pleasant for Colt! They aren’t just superior in their medical expertise – everything they do is specialized for children and for their families. You think – you hope – that it would be that way everywhere, but we can tell you it’s not. Instead of just focusing on getting a procedure completed, the Mott team also focuses on how to doing it right and in a way that’s best for the child and his family.
Today, Colt is a happy, healthy five year old. At the moment, there are no signs of any cancer cells in his body. He loves swimming and biking, playing with his brother and sister, and he LOVES Disney movies. In fact, this weekend we leave for a trip to Disney Land. He LOVES school, and even though he had to miss a lot of preschool for his treatment, he’s very excited to start kindergarten this fall.
We especially want to thank to all of the people who give so generously to make the work that they’re doing at Mott possible. You are the Michigan Difference!
Colt and his family will be part of the WTKA Mott Takeover on Friday, May 17. You can hear the DelVerne’s during the 2:00 hour on Ann Arbor’s 107.1 FM and W4 Country 102.9 FM, and on WTKA Sports Talk 1050 AM during the 3:00 hour.
Jeff and Shannon DelVerne and their children Drew, 11, Mia, 6, and twins Emma and Colt, 5, live in Toledo, Ohio. Their love affair with U-M dates back to Jeff’s and Shannon’s college days, when they were students at U-M. In fact, when Jeff was a kicker for the U-M Football team he used to visit the kids at Mott with other U-M athletes, a tradition that continues with today’s U-M athletes.
University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital is consistently ranked one of the best hospitals in the country. It was nationally ranked in all ten pediatric specialties in U.S. News Media Group’s “America’s Best Children’s Hospitals,” and among the 10 best children’s hospitals in the nation by Parents Magazine. In December 2011, the hospital opened our new 12-story, state-of-the-art facility offering cutting-edge specialty services for newborns, children and women.