By Cathryn Lindsay, Sun Journal Staff Published: Wednesday, April 23, 2014 at 15:43 PM. For one New Bern family, Easter weekend was not just a time for religious services and Easter egg hunts; it was a time to celebrate a second chance.
The Goldstein family spent their Easter Weekend at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, where their 2-year-old daughter Delilah underwent a life-saving liver transplant.
“The entire process this past weekend from start to finish was an Easter Miracle,” said Stephanie Goldstein, Delilah’s mother. “Everything just fell into place at the right time.”
In December 2013, after numerous doctors’ visits, Stephanie convinced the pediatrician to perform blood tests and scans on her infant daughter. The testing revealed that Delilah had hepatoblastoma, a rare form of predominately pediatric liver cancer.
“I was utterly heartbroken when we were told this, only three days after the twins turned one year and four days before their first Christmas at home,” Stephanie said. “We spent Christmas once again in the hospital, and separated from Maximus (Delilah’s twin brother) since he was not allowed to be in the hospital due to the influenza protocols and his age.”
Doctors found that Delilah’s tumor had reached Stage 3 and was 12 centimeters by 10 centimeters, and she started chemotherapy shortly after the diagnosis, according to Stephanie. In Stage 3, there is a potential for the cancer to have spread to other parts of the body, or the cancer is affecting between 50 to 75 percent of liver sections, according to cancer.gov.
“The first round of chemotherapy was the worst,” Stephanie said. “Delilah was very ill and lost 4 pounds. Subsequent rounds of chemotherapy involved feeding tubes, fevers, infections and minor hearing loss. Four months and four cycles of chemotherapy later, Delilah was listed for (a liver) transplant on April 4.”
During this time, Stephanie began doing research on Delilah’s cancer and organizations that could help. Her research led her to the Children’s Organ Transplant Association, according to Kandy Antwine, the public relations coordinator for Delilah’s COTA campaign.
According to COTA, the cost of a transplant can often exceed $500,000. The Children’s Organ Transplant Association is a national charity based in Bloomington, Ind., which is dedicated to organizing and guiding communities in raising funds for transplant-related expenses, according to their website, cota.org. Since 1986, COTA’s priority is to assure that no child or young adult is denied a transplant or excluded from a transplant waiting list due to lack of funds. One hundred percent of all funds raised for transplant patients are used for transplant-related expenses.
“We are in the beginning stages of our fundraising campaign and are assembling a team of volunteers to assist in our fundraising efforts,” said Kandy Antwine, the public relations coordinator for Delilah’s COTA campaign. The campaign is estimating the Goldstein family will need about $45,000 to help pay Delilah’s medical expenses.
About two weeks after being placed on the transplant list and linking up with COTA, the Goldsteins got a phone call that would change their lives — a liver had been found for Delilah.
The family rushed to Durham, and even though the donor liver had not arrived, Delilah was sent into surgery that evening.
The doctors were concerned the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes or her diaphragm, but she was cleared and the liver arrived around midnight, Stephanie explained.
“The surgeons continued laboring heroically until the wee hours of the morning, and we finally got to see her around 6 a.m. (April 20),” Stephanie said. “She was sedated and closely monitored. She had four different IVs, two stomach tubes, one drain, a breathing tube, a catheter and several leads.”
Going forward, Delilah will need to be closely monitored and will have daily anti-rejection drug therapy for the rest of her life, according to Stephanie. In the short term, she is having labs drawn every few hours, ultra sounds daily and may need a liver biopsy as well.
Another two rounds of chemotherapy will hopefully finish the young girl’s battle with liver cancer, barring any complications, explained Stephanie.
With COTA leading the way, about $2,270 of the $45,000 needed has been raised to assist the Goldsteins as of Wednesday.
Since its inception, COTA has helped more than 2,000 children and adults, and has raised more than $70 million, according to Antwine. Every dollar raised in honor of COTA’s patients is used for transplant-related expenses, and the organization does not charge for any of its services. They also work in partnership with the Donate Life America, Donate Life Indiana and The American Legion Child Welfare Foundation to increase the organ and tissue donation rate.
To assist with organizing fundraisers, a volunteer meeting is being held at 1 p.m., April 26, at High Tide Creative, located at 245 Craven St., New Bern.
“We want to get a lot of people there so everybody doesn’t have to come to every fundraising event,” Antwine said. “Everyone is welcome to come, even if they are only offering ideas.”