Chris and Cristina Dalton were excited to announce big news on Easter Sunday two year ago. They had planned to tell their friends and family they were expecting their second child.
Unfortunately, they were unable to share the exciting news because they had to rush their 17-month-old daughter Emilia to the Emergency Department.
Emilia began feeling ill almost a week before, at which point the Daltons took her to see her primary care doctor. The initial diagnosis was a viral infection, which was treated with anti-nausea medication. The medication didn’t help, and Emilia’s condition continued to decline.
“By Easter Sunday morning, she wasn’t responsive at all,” explained Chris Dalton.
Soon after arriving at the Vacaville Medical Center emergency room, Emilia had a seizure. She was immediately given a CT scan, which showed “a substantial brain tumor,” Chris Dalton recalled.
Emilia was subsequently transported to the Oakland Medical Center, where she underwent further testing. She was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, a cancer caused by the overproduction of white blood cells.
The Daltons then met David Pincus, MD, PhD, a pediatric neurosurgeon.
“Emilia’s case was unique to me,” said Dr. Pincus. “I had never seen a child with this type of leukemia present with a brain tumor.”
A caring doctor
Dr. Pincus recommended Emilia undergo a surgery to remove the tumor.
“When I first met Dr. Pincus, I asked, ‘If this was your child, would you choose this procedure?’” Chris Dalton remembered.
Dr. Pincus said he would, reassuring the Daltons the surgery was the best option for Emilia.
Chris Dalton said he knew his daughter was in good hands with Dr. Pincus.
“Dr. Pincus checked on Emilia many times throughout the day and, by doing this, he made us feel like he cared about Emilia’s well-being,” he added.
Dr. Pincus said he makes an effort to connect with his patients.
“It’s common for physicians to stand over a patient, giving the impression they won’t be there for long,” said Dr. Pincus. “I prefer to sit in a chair at the edge of the bed to help the patient and their family know that I’m present and available to answer all their questions.”
After her surgery, Emilia was transferred to the Roseville Medical Center, where she participated in a clinical trial to treat her cancer. She spent 7 months under the care of Sonali Lakshminarayanan, MD, a pediatric hematologist and oncologist.
“My wife was 15 weeks pregnant with our second child at the start of treatment and 38 weeks by the end of treatment,” said Dalton. “Dr. Lakshminarayanan ensured our request to remain with Emilia and our newborn child until she was discharged.”
A healthy, normal kid
Today, almost 2 years later, Emilia is an energetic, creative, and beautiful 4-year-old girl.
“From Dr. Pincus to Dr. Lakshminarayanan, our care was amazing. I’m so glad we went to Kaiser Permanente because we had the best care experience imaginable,” her dad said. “We’re happy Emilia will have the opportunity to grow up as a normal kid, scraping her knees at the park and (experiencing) all of the other everyday experiences all children go through.”