In the summer of 2019, the Ortega-Hohe family’s lives were turned upside down when then 10-year-old Andrew had a very hard, swollen lymph node in his neck. His mom, Mariann, imagined the worst, so she and her wife, Margarita, took him to urgent care immediately.
Seeking The Kid Experts™
He was quickly referred to an ENT not affiliated with Children’s Minnesota, where the doctor told the family he suspected lymphoma and suggested a biopsy. That conversation triggered a whirlwind of doctor’s visits, a round of antibiotics, blood tests and second opinions, which eventually led the family to Children’s Minnesota.
“The experience at Children’s Minnesota was completely different,” said Mariann. “The physician spoke to us clearly and respectfully, but most importantly, kindly.” Based on this second opinion, they went forward with the biopsy.
The biopsy confirmed the family’s worst fears — Andrew had stage 2A Lymphocyte-Predominant Hodgkin Lymphoma and would require chemotherapy. Andrew’s oncologist relayed over the phone that no matter the type or stage, this type of cancer is highly treatable, and even curable for many patients.
Mariann recalls the conversation with Andrew’s oncologist as one of the most positive experiences the family had with a medical professional because it was respectful, informative and even encouraging. In fact, the conversation showed the Ortega-Hohe family that there was light at the end of the tunnel, and that they could get through this scary diagnosis.
Throughout his journey, Andrew never lost his sense of humor. “He never stopped joking around, wanting to play and make the whole family laugh – like he does every day,” Mariann said. “As his parents, we adore him. But seeing his strength through this process gave us a new admiration for him too.”
Children’s Minnesota experience
Less than two weeks after Andrew’s urgent care visit, he was back at Children’s Minnesota for surgery to install a port so he could begin chemotherapy.
“As we checked into a room for recovery and to prep for the first chemo treatment, everyone at Children’s [Minnesota] was super helpful and friendly,” Mariann said. “We must have had 10 different visitors during the day, each trying to help us in one way or another.” Whether it was a nurse, doctor, social worker, physical therapist or any other member of Andrew’s care team, each individual gave the family encouragement and confidence in the treatment plan, and spent much time speaking directly to Andrew, demonstrating their care and concern.
Andrew was able to stay positive and happy thanks to some of the wraparound services we provide, like therapy dogs, massage therapy and visits from the Minnesota Twins. And the family will never forget all of the UNO games Andrew won as they passed the time at the hospital.
After his second chemotherapy treatment, PET scan results came back completely clean!
Alexandra’s participation in our Youth Advisory Council
Alexandra was by Andrew’s side throughout his time at Children’s Minnesota (and beyond!). She even joined a program called Families as Partners (FAP). FAP is a program where our patient families provide input to help make the Children’s Minnesota care experience better.
Within FAP, Alexandra joined the Youth Advisory Council. This council is where siblings of patients at Children’s Minnesota help other siblings who are going through a similar process. The kids and teens in this council are such an important part of other family’s healing during hard times.
Andrew is now a healthy 12 year old, and is completely back to being the “life of the party” as his moms describe him.
“We owe so much to the doctors, nurses and all the other caregivers at Children’s [Minnesota] who treated Andrew so well and helped us make it through such an intense period of time,” said Mariann. “We are beyond thankful and happy to be where we are.”