A Life-Saving Intervention for a McHenry Teen

Last September when the hospital near her hometown of McHenry couldn't treat her, 16-year-old Erin Sullivan was rushed by ambulance an hour away to Alexian Brothers Women & Children's Hospital. She was immediately admitted to the pediatric intesnsive care unit (PICU).

Erin's blood counts were life-threateningly lowshe'd been losing blood faster than she'd been creating it. "My mom said if I'd stayed out of the hospital for another month I could have died because of how bad my blood tests were," Erin says.

"If I'd have gone home that day, I swear to God she would have crashed," says her mom, Laura. "I knew there was something going on with her but didn't realize it was such a serious situation."

Erin, whose weight had dropped to a mere 79 pounds, was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. In addition to two blood transfusions, she received an array of other tests, interventions and treatments over the course of her four-week hospital stay. She wasn't able to eat on her own. She was incredibly homesick. Being able to have her mom or dad stay with her in her hospital room made a huge difference not only to Erin but also to her parents. Laura was with her daughter the majority of the time, and appreciated having her own place to stay, her own refrigerator and that two food traysone for her daughter and one for herwere brought up to the room. It helped that they could decorate the room with family photos and that their dog could come visit. Most of all, the family-friendly environment and optimism of the staff lifted their spirits. They ate lunch with the housekeeper. Nurses wrote encouraging letters, and when Erin missed her homecoming dance because she was in the hospital, they brought her a poster to try to cheer her up.

"I can't tell you how wonderful it was to see that all the nurses there had a true compassion for her," says Erin's dad, Patrick. "They're not only concerned about her physical well-being but her mental well-being, too. They treat the whole person. It was a wonderful experience, even though it wasn't the greatest experience for her. It made it so much easier for her to accept."

As Erin's blood counts began to climb and she slowly healed, she learned more and more from her doctors and nurses about her condition and how to manage it over the long term. By the end of October, Erin was helping decorate her unit for Halloween, teaming up with child life staff on projects to keep her mind off being in the hospital.

"We made a lot of friends," Laura says. "Leaving the hospital was difficult because it was like leaving home."

Erin's mom is grateful she followed her intuition that day in September and insisted that her local hospital call Alexian Brothers for a second opinion on her daughter's test results. "After her health suffering for so long, we hit the jackpot with her hospital and her doctors," Laura says.

Now Erin is back at home and school, checking in regularly with her Alexian Brothers specialist to manage her medications and disease.

"Before, I always had stomach problems and I always wondered if this was going to be me for the rest of my life," she says. "I feel pretty confident moving on now. I feel a lot healthier, because I kind of actually feel like a normal person."

About her month in the hospital, she adds, "I don't really look at it as a terrible time, where I was always depressed and I wish it didn't happen, becuase it definitely saved my life."

Give a child like Erin life-saving pediatrics treatment. Make a gift to the Alexian Brothers Foundation.