Before Caroline Lawrence was even born, she had a team of doctors at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center ready to help save her life.
Her incredible journey with a dedicated team of doctors began when her mother, Jessica, was 27 weeks pregnant. Jessica's obstetrician referred her to Children's for a fetal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) when he noticed that one of Caroline's kidneys was larger than the other.
Shortly after the MRI, doctors delivered the difficult news: they had found a tumor on Caroline's kidney.
Jessica and her husband, Shep, then began meeting with doctors to figure out the next step. "It felt like a lot of moving parts were coming together to plan for the timing of delivery,” Jessica said.
The neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) doctors wanted to deliver Caroline as close to full term as possible, but the urologist and surgeons were wary of waiting because the tumor was rapidly growing. If Caroline did not come early, the doctors would induce at 37 weeks. “But sure enough, Caroline came just a few days before the deadline," Jessica said.
A Newborn in Surgery
Awaiting her arrival at Egleston hospital was her team of doctors that consisted of two surgeons, a neonatologist, a nephrologist, a urologist, a pathologist and an oncologist.
At just 5 days old, Caroline underwent surgery. The procedure proved to be very difficult.
The surgeons were having trouble because the tumor was also attached to her inferior vena cava (IVC), a large vein close to the kidneys. Doctors discovered that the tumor inside of Caroline was 12 centimeters—the size of a grapefruit.
A sample of the tumor was rushed to the Aflac Cancer Center for testing. The diagnosis was a stage three cellular congenital mesoblastic nephroma. The surgeons removed most of the tumor, but because of its location on the IVC, they made the decision to stop the surgery. They couldn't risk any more bleeding.
After the surgery, Jessica and Shep learned that the next step to save Caroline's life would be chemotherapy to kill the remaining tumor cells in her body. First, though, she would have to regain her strength. Caroline spent three weeks in the NICU and two weeks at home recuperating from her difficult operation.
The Best Place You Never Want to Go
When she was 6 weeks old, Caroline returned to the Aflac Cancer Center to begin 22 weeks of chemotherapy. Having a newborn undergo such a difficult medical procedure proved challenging for the family. "Learning to figure out whether she was crying from side effects of the treatment or because she was just tired took some time," Jessica said.
Throughout Caroline's treatment, the family valued the support of the physicians, nurses, staff and volunteers at the Aflac Cancer Center. "They became friends we saw every week," Jessica said.
Caroline’s most recent MRI, taken around her first birthday, came back tumor free. Her family is extraordinarily thankful for the excellent care they received throughout their daughter's journey. “We just know we wouldn't be here without Children's. It's the best place you never want to go,” Jessica said.