The day her three-year-old daughter Evangelina was diagnosed with Leukemia, Melina was nine months pregnant with her second child.
Evangelina had been feeling sick, on and off, for several days. She had a few bruises, which could easily be explained by a fall at the playground or a bump at school. But when her lethargy got worse, a trip to the pediatrician was in order. The doctor sent them to the Emergency Department. The Emergency Department ran a battery of tests.
Then it was as if time stopped.
Only it didn’t.
Immediately, Evangelina had to be admitted to the hospital for a minimum of thirty days to begin her first round of chemotherapy. Melina barely left the hospital, climbing into her daughter’s bed every night to sleep beside her. Melina’s husband, Adam, and both her parents were a constant presence. Her brother cancelled a family trip to be available if needed.
“No one felt they could do anything joyful.” Melina says.
In the midst of Evangelina’s inpatient stay, Melina gave birth to Aviana.
The plan had not been to deliver at Women and Infant’s Hospital in Providence, but this facility is adjacent to Hasbro Children’s Hospital, where Evangelina was being treated, and is even connected by an underground tunnel. So arrangements were made and when the time came, the nursing staff whisked Melina over.
The very next morning, Evangelina spiked a temperature. Her compromised immune system couldn’t fight off a minor virus and she ended up in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU). Adam raced to be with his little girl, and shortly thereafter Melina tearfully left their newborn in the nursery to check on her older daughter.
Evangelina recovered from the virus, and the family fell into a daily routine to finish out Evangelina’s inpatient protocol. But, still, this was not how Melina imagined welcoming her new baby into the world.
“That dream of the four of us going home from the hospital didn’t happen,” she recalls. It was hard to find something to celebrate.
After a total of thirty-seven days, Evangelina was finally released from the hospital to begin her two-year treatment plan.
“Leaving the hospital was the best day,” Melina says.
She remembers Evangelina rolling down the car window and smiling. Friends had been planning a welcome celebration for baby Aviana, and her big sister was able to attend.
Evangelina still has another year left in treatment and it isn’t easy. She struggles with the steroids and had an allergic reaction to one of her medications.
When Melina is tempted to wish the time away, her father reminds her gently that she should try to enjoy her baby. So Melina tries to create as normal a childhood as possible for both her girls.
Evangelina goes to school when she feels up to it, attends swim, dance, and tennis as long as her little body feels healthy enough. The family goes to the park. They spend time together.
“It’s hard to make plans,” Melina says. “We had to let go of expectations.”
They do what they can.
Diagnosed with Leukemia at 3