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Acts of Bravery: Battling Cancer during the Holidays

December 04, 2018

Acts of bravery happen every single day at Arkansas Children’s.

Strong parents like Brittany and Jonathan Gill who, after receiving devastating news, clench their teeth and hold back their tears so they don’t frighten their sick or injured child.  

Courageous siblings like 5-year-old Rowan Gill, who smile even though they don’t understand why their families aren’t together every night any more.

And brave young children like 3-year-old Willow Gill, who laugh and play in spite of painful needle sticks, emergency room visits and treatments that leave them feeling sick and cranky.

These acts of bravery are only possible because of you.

And the bravery of the everyday heroes—the world-class doctors, compassionate nurses and the rest of the incredible Arkansas Children’s team—is awe-inspiring.

Day after day, these special people put their hearts and souls into caring for children. Some days they go home heartbroken and discouraged. Other days they celebrate victories alongside patients and families.

But one thing never wavers: their dedication to providing expert, compassionate care to sick and injured children like Willow.

Little Willow is fighting that devastating, frightening, life-threatening disease that strikes fear into everyone’s hearts…cancer.

In June 2017 Willow began having problems moving her neck. She was diagnosed with an infection in the vertebrae and admitted to Arkansas Children’s Hospital where she was prescribed heavy doses of antibiotics to fight the infection.

In spite of the medication, Willow’s white blood cells kept dropping. Her ACH doctor began to suspect the worst. Sadly, tests confirmed his suspicions.

Willow’s dad Jonathan was on his way to work when the doctor called and told him to pull over.

“My husband called me crying to tell me our daughter had cancer,” says Willow’s mom  Brittany. “It was terrifying. I felt like I couldn’t I was having a heart attack. My heart has never hurt that badly.”

The Gills rushed Willow to Arkansas Children’s Hospital from their home in Ward. Brittany said of those whirlwind moments, “As soon as we were admitted to the cancer unit, we were swarmed by doctors. It really felt like they were putting her first. It was clear they weren’t messing around—they meant business.”

Willow received several chemotherapy infusions and last October, entered the maintenance phase of her treatment. Throughout her treatment, Willow has struggled with respiratory problems, pneumonia and constant viral and bacterial infections that leave her feeling awful. Watching their daughter go through such difficult experiences has been very hard on her parents.

The family’s scariest moment was the day Willow’s heart stopped. The day had been uneventful. Willow was comfortable and resting as she received a treatment at the hospital. Brittany decided to take advantage of the quiet moment to run a quick errand. When she returned, she noticed a crowd of people in the hallway and was shocked when she realized it was her daughter’s room.

As Willow’s care team worked to resuscitate her, Brittany says she was so scared: “I can’t explain why, but there was a moment when I just needed to touch the nurses that were working to save my little girl’s life. So I touched one of the nurses on her back.”

There are so many everyday heroes at Arkansas Children’s who help patients and families be brave. Brittany says, “Volunteers stop by to ask if we need anything. The Child Life department uses dolls to calm Willow’s fears and help her understand what’s happening to her by demonstrating a procedure or treatment. There are even therapy dogs that visit the kids…we have dogs at home, so a visit from a therapy dog means a lot to Willow.”

“And we love all Willow’s doctors, who weren’t going to stop until they had answers for us. And the can tell the nurses really care about the kids. Everyone goes above and beyond to take care of us.” she continued.

Your support helps brave kids like Willow and their families receive lifesaving care from the everyday heroes at Arkansas Children’s. Please consider making a gift to help children like Easton get better. All gifts, no matter the size, make a huge impact on sick kids in Arkansas. Click here to give now! And thank you for begin a champion for children!

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