August 31, 2021

Kids Helping Kids: MVPs Addie and Declan Give Back

4-year-olds Addie and Declan were meant to tackle the world together. The first years of their lives were spent together learning, bonding and fighting cancer inside Hackensack Meridian Children’s Health at Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital.

Today, both Addie and Declan are cancer survivors – and the best of friends. They are growing up with one another – celebrating birthdays, apple picking, swimming and now, raising funds for Tackle Kids Cancer. The two pre-schoolers (and their parents) teamed up to form an Eli’s Challenge team for our May Virtual 5K. Together they raised more than$18,000!

At five-months-old, Addie was diagnosed with Embryonal Tumor with Multilayered Rosettes (ETMR), a serious brain tumor, with a less than 10% survival rate, primarily affecting children under four-years-old. In December 2016, Addie’s parents found themselves at Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital’s Emergency Department with baby Addie. She was unable to stay awake, was vomiting and severely dehydrated. After testing, physicians discovered a 5-centimeter mass in Addie’s brain.

Addie underwent emergency surgery and spent the next 12 days in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU). Derek Hanson, M.D., section chief of pediatric neuro-oncology, knew he had to think outside the box if Addie was going to make it and created a special ETMR protocol that proved to be successful.

After four rounds of chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant, and receiving experimental drugs, Addie received her first clean scan in September 2017. To date, her scans remain cancer free.

At four-months-old, Declan’s mother, Jessica, noticed bumps on Declan’s skin. Declan’s pediatrician referred her to a dermatologist who took a biopsy of a bump. It came back positive for acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a type of cancer of the blood and bone marrow with excess immature white blood cells.

Upon receiving the diagnosis at five-months-old, Declan was admitted into Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital and stayed until he was almost 10-months-old. He underwent chemotherapy and received treatment from Alfred Gillio, M.D., director of the Children’s Cancer Institute, and his team. During his treatment, Declan remained a happy, playful baby who loved the nurses.

When Declan was eight-months-old, he received a bone marrow transplant with bone marrow from a generous and unrelated donor – a firefighter living in Michigan – through Be the Match. It was this transplant that saved his life. To date, Declan has remained healthy and cancer free.