- Callie Carman, RN, who was one of the team members who provided Elaina's care, brought a gift for Alexander to bring to his granddaughter's party.
- The cake brought to Ascension Via Christi St. Francis' Emergency Department team
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Grandfather celebrates 2-year-old's birthday, ER staff who made it possible
Although Oct. 23, is Elaina Omar's official 2nd birthday, her family celebrates every day as if it were the day.
Having been diagnosed at just 5 months old with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, they consider every day they get to spend with the spunky 2-year-old to be a gift.
On Friday, her grandfather, David Alexander, president of the Via Christi Foundation, was eagerly looking forward to celebrating the day with his wife Flossie, Elaina's parents, Emily and Simon Omar, and other friends and family with a drive-by party.
But first, he went to celebrate the milestone moment with the group he says made her first birthday possible: The team in the Ascension Via Christi St. Francis Emergency Department.
"You literally saved her life on April 19, 2019," said Alexander, who surprised the group during their morning huddle with a birthday cake decorated with images of Elaina, who has been cancer-free for the past year. "She came in as a 5-month-old in very, very dire condition, with a hemoglobin count of less than two and a white cell count of more than 380,000.
"It was all hands on deck as you immediately diagnosed her issues, got her the life-saving blood she needed and arranged for her to be transported, with the blood products she needed, to Children's Mercy in Kansas City," says Alexander.
"It's been quite a road since then, as Elaina has undergone six rounds of chemotherapy and about the time we were about to give up hope, she became one of the first babies in the nation to undergo CAR-T cell therapy without first having a bone marrow transplant."
Elaina would not have had that opportunity, Alexander told the group, if it were not for the team who provided her initial care in the St. Francis ER.
The family is looking forward to celebrating another milestone next month: One year of being cancer-free.
"You are the best of the best. If her cancer came back tomorrow and took her, we would still be eternally grateful for every day you've given us with this bundle of joy,"
Alexander also brought a cart brimming with snacks, purchased with donations designated for caregiver support, to place in the busy team's breakroom.
"You're the first line of defense and treatment for these folks coming in with COVID and you're doing it in the midst of all the other things you're doing every single day," Alexander told the group. "You make such a difference."
If you ever feel forgotten, he added, "Know that you are heroes to us."