Superhero Austin fights cancer

When you arrive to the hematology and oncology unit at CHOC Childrens Hospital, theres someone you wont miss  and if you do, hell make sure you notice him. 

Three-year-old Austin, a CHOC patient, is a bundle of energy and can often be found running around in a costume, jamming out to his favorite music or yelling out, Hi! to everyone who passes his hospital room. He is your typical toddler, except for one thing — he has cancer. 

Austin at CHOC Children's
Austin at CHOC Children’s

 Austin was diagnosed earlier this year with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) with FLT3-ITD and NPM1 mutations. Before his diagnosis, Austin had constant and unexplained fevers, bone pain, loss of appetite and extreme fatigue. His pediatrician, Dr. John Carruth, ordered a blood test that showed an alarmingly high white blood cell count. 

Austins parents, Kristen and John, were told by Dr. Carruth to bring Austin immediately to CHOC. 

It felt like a surreal nightmare walking onto the fifth floor at CHOC and seeing the words cancer unit,’” says KristenIt was the most afraid Ive ever been in my life.” 

Due to Austins cancer mutations, his parents were told he may need a bone marrow transplant. This kind of transplant can often be a cure for certain oncology diagnoses, but the process is not easy  especially for a young child. Thankfully, his oncologist Dr. Jamie Frediani is committed to staying up-to-date with the latest research and new studies within pediatric oncology, and she knew that children with similar mutations to Austin’s can do much better without having to undergo a transplant. 

Knowledge is constantly evolving, and with it our treatment strategy  giving patients like Austin an improved prognosis, says Dr. Frediani. 

Austins care plan moved forward with five rounds of chemotherapy, but that was just one part of the battle. A few weeks after Austin was admitted, California enacted stay at home orders due to COVID-19 and CHOCs visitor guidelines were revised in the interest of curbing the spread of the pandemic.

During the past few months, there were moments that were especially hard for Austin – but he was never fighting alone. Although he experienced nausea, an allergic reaction, a fungal infection in his lungs, high fevers, painful mouth sores and overall body pain, Austin and his parents had an entire team fighting alongside them.  

The staff, doctors, nurses, child life specialists, music therapists and all our other cancer-fighting friends on our floor have been so loving and friendly,” says Kristen. You never want to hear your child has cancer, but if it means you get to meet wonderful and inspiring people along the way, then this entire experience is made a little easier and a lot less painful.” 

Austin at CHOC Children’s
Austin at CHOC Children’s

As much as CHOCs staff has made an imprint on Austins heart, he has done the same for them in return. While attached to his IV pole, Austin sprints through the halls daily introducing his bright personality to those around him, bravely shows off his superhero-fighting moves to all the nurses and has chosen to be happy every day for the 163 days he has been at CHOC. 

Under the care of Dr. Frediani and the oncology team, Austins chemotherapy treatment has gone well, and he was recently able to return homeGoing forward, hell have regular follow-up appointments with his care team. Austin and his parents are excited for him to start pre-school, take a karate class, play on a baseball team and continue to lift people up wherever he goes. 

As much as were excited to move on with our lives, I hope Austin remembers this experience,” says Kristen. I hope he remembers the hard things he did, the fears he overcame, the people he met. I hope he remembers just how brave he was and how much braver he will be because of this. 

Learn more about the Hyundai Cancer Institute at CHOC Children's

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Dr. Jamie Frediani joins Hyundai Cancer Institute at CHOC Children’s

Pediatric hematologist/oncologist Dr. Jamie Frediani has joined the growing team of innovative specialists at the Hyundai Cancer Institute at CHOC Children’s. Dr. Frediani looks forward to further advancing CHOC’s leukemia and lymphoma programs, as well as the adolescent and young adult cancer program.

“The Hyundai Cancer Institute is experiencing an exciting time of immense growth, including creating new ways of delivering exceptional patient care, developing new treatments, expanding patient outreach and education, and enriching existing treatment teams,” says Dr. Frediani. “I am thrilled to be a part of this growth, and honored to join such a supportive team of experts.”

Dr. Jamie Frediani
Pediatric hematologist/oncologist Dr. Jamie Frediani has joined the growing team of innovative specialists at the Hyundai Cancer Institute at CHOC Children’s.

After graduating with high honors from University of California, Davis with a bachelor’s degree in microbiology, Dr. Frediani completed medical school at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.  Her residency and fellowship training were done at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA), respectively. Throughout her education and training, she assumed numerous leadership roles.  Most recently, she was chief fellow of the department of hematology/oncology at CHLA.

Dr. Frediani has participated in numerous research studies, including working with clinicians at St. Jude Children’s Research Institute in Memphis, Tennessee. She has published in Molecular Cancer, Archives of disease in childhood and Pediatric blood and cancer.

Dedicated to patient-and-family-centered care, Dr. Frediani was inspired to become a pediatric hematologist/oncologist after volunteering in the child life department of a local hospital.  There, in the hospital’s oncology floor, she witnessed the amazing resilience of these patients and the unique relationship between the physicians and their patients and families.

“No matter how many other specialties I found alluring or interesting, my heart always lead me back to oncology.  In addition to how rapidly the science behind oncology treatment is changing, keeping the field constantly new and interesting, I find our patients a source of strength and inspiration.  I absolutely can’t imagine practicing any other specialty,” says Dr. Frediani.

Dr. Frediani’s philosophy of care is based on a multidisciplinary, collaborative and cooperative team approach. “A diagnosis of pediatric cancer affects the patient – physically, emotionally and mentally, as well as the entire family.  You can’t just address the medical treatment without accounting for the family’s spiritual beliefs, culture and family dynamics,” explains Dr. Frediani. “I want to empower our patients and families to make the best decisions for them, through the lenses they use to relate to the world. Most importantly, I want our patients to experience as much of a normal childhood as possible, in spite of the challenges of treatment.”

Learn more about the Hyundai Cancer Institute at CHOC Children's

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