But Carrick was born with acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Immediately, he was rushed to Albany Medical Center and then to Dana Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center. His chances of survival hovered near 30 percent.
Making the hospital home
“We never went home. We spent all of Carrick’s first holidays—my birthday, our anniversary, our older son’s birthday, Thanksgiving—in the hospital,” says Crista. The Dec My Room program helped the Woods and outfitted his room with sheets, pillows, toys, books and more.
A second family
Just as the hospital became a home away from home for the Woods, Carrick’s caregivers became a second family.
Crista and Patrick barely strayed from their son’s side as he battled for his life. Their fierce sense of dedication touched his nurses, so when Crista’s birthday rolled around in September, his nurses—including Samantha Rosen (pictured above) and Kara Whitney—chipped in and surprised Crista and Patrick with a gift certificate for a nearby movie theater and restaurant.
“I always admired Crista and Pat’s ability to work together and remain positive through all the ups and downs,” explains Rosen. “Not only did I get to help Carrick fight one of the toughest battles of his life all before he was just 6 months old, I also got to share in his achievement of major developmental milestones such as learning to sit unattended and eat solid foods.”
Chemotherapy. A central line. Infection. Surgery. It’s not what most families anticipate for the first few months of their new baby’s life.
“The biggest thing to help us was hope. We learned to treasure every minute and to take things day by day, sometimes hour by hour, and when Carrick was on life support—second by second,” says Crista.
In early December, Carrick’s oncologist, Dr. Barbara Degar, started introducing the idea of bringing Carrick home. The Woods shared their excitement with everyone. Then Carrick wound up with a massive infection. All plans were put on hold as Carrick was rushed to the ICU for more medications and a transfusion, which was followed by another surgery to place new lines.
So when Dr. Degar mentioned a possible holiday homecoming, Crista and Patrick remained quiet. “We just couldn’t disappoint Connor (our older son) again if it turned out that Carrick could not come home.” After Carrick finally got the green light, the couple called Crista’s parents on Christmas day and made it home in time to celebrate the holiday with the entire family.
Carrick’s leukemia goes into remission
“Carrick finally has a chance to be a kid. We’re no longer double-checking on him all of the time. We even let him play in the dirt.”
Although Carrick’s leukemia is in remission, there are residual effects from the chemotherapy, including damage to his heart, which Dr. Degar will monitor during monthly checkups until age 5.
“We were so nervous leaving the hospital with Carrick,” recalls Crista. Health coaches came to teach Crista and Patrick about home care for their son’s central line, which was used for medication and transfusions, and his nasogastric tube, needed for feeding. (Both lines were removed about 6 weeks after Carrick’s homecoming.)
“There are times when I wish we could be back at the hospital. Everything was taken care of, and our nurses were the best babysitters we’ll ever have.”
Learn more about caring for children after cancer treatment.