I'm Living Proof: Jaycee Whipple

 

Beth Barton believes she was meant to take her daughter to Summerlin Hospital Medical Center in May 2012 even though the family lived about an hour and a half away from Las Vegas. In their hometown of Bullhead City, Arizona, Jaycee and her mother went to the local hospital after three-year-old Jaycee complained of pain in her stomach but were told it was only constipation and to call her pediatrician.

Jaycee’s pediatrician diagnosed her with Wilms tumors on her kidneys that had metastasized to her lungs. Beth’s husband’s insurance was not accepted at the local hospital, so the family made the journey 90 minutes to Summerlin Hospital and started chemotherapy in order to shrink the tumors prior to removal via surgery. The Valley Health System, including Summerlin Hospital, accepts most health insurance plans in the area.

Traveling to Las Vegas

When Jaycee was first diagnosed, Beth and her daughter stayed in Las Vegas for a week while Jaycee was having CAT scans. Chemotherapy started on June 6, 2012 twice a week and Beth had multiple stays at Summerlin. She would stay for a week at a time.

Two major surgeries followed. “My doctor’s advice was, ‘Just keep a suitcase packed by your door,’” says Beth. After Jaycee’s first surgery, she was walking around four to five days afterward. “She’s a little super girl. She touched a lot of people’s hearts,” her mother says. The second surgery didn’t affect her as much, and she was feeling better in a few days. “She’s a strong little girl. She always had a smile on her face.”

Dedicated Nursing Care

One nurse in particular, Keely Ratajczyk, was prominent in helping Jaycee fight her way back to health. “She has a heart of gold,” says Beth. “Even if Jaycee was not her patient that day, Nurse Keely would go right to Jaycee’s side to see how she was doing.”

The nurse shaved her head during a fundraising event in March 2013 for St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a childhood cancer charity based in Monrovia, Calif., to “let my patients know I’ll do whatever I can to help find cures for their cancers,” Keely said in an interview.

Just about one year in remission this March, Jaycee is back to doing all the things she loves: drawing, playing with Monster-High® dolls and doing somersaults. “She’s bounced right back,” says Beth, who adds Wilms’ patients have to be in remission five years to be considered cured. Beth is adamant about attributing Jaycee’s recovery to the care at Summerlin Hospital. “The nurses and doctors are all amazing; they really touched my heart,” says Beth. “I’m so happy that they came into my life when they did.”

Learn more about the Children's Medical Center at Summerlin Hospital