A thank you from Gavin, the ‘biggest little fan’

Gavin is treated at Boston Children's Hospital for a tumor. My wife, Rebecca, and I are forever grateful for the compassionate care we received at Boston Children’s Hospital. This is our story — an emotional roller-coaster with a very happy ending.

In early March, our nanny Eida discovered a lump on the lower back of our infant son, Gavin.

As we began to see various doctors locally, we were told the lump was something common and benign, but we never got a solid diagnosis. Imaging was inconclusive and an oncologist told us over the phone, “I wish I could tell you this is benign, but at this point, I cannot.” One option presented to us was to remove the entire tumor without a diagnosis.

Amidst the confusion and uncertainty I reached out to a family friend, who recommended we get a second opinion from Boston Children’s.

Our first conversation with Dr. Chris Weldon revealed a very different approach. Dr. Weldon said, “Let’s not take it out until we know what it is. Maybe it doesn’t need to come out; taking it out is one thing, putting everything back together is quite another.” This thoughtful, stepwise approach really resonated with us and gave us a lot of confidence. In the following days, Dr. Weldon’s assistant Krystal Lok-Tyska was so patient, responsive and kind in managing all of our inquiries and requests. Krystal is truly one of those unsung heroes who touches patients’ lives in many ways big and small.

Picken's family travels to Boston Children's Hospital for a second opinion for their son's tumor.

In the radiology check-in area, the receptionist chatted and joked with us despite the early morning hour. It immediately set the tone that we’re among friends here. When Dr. Weldon and a team of four other physicians and nurses entered the room to examine Gavin, we were struck at how calm and present they all were. Dr. Weldon was candid that they couldn’t determine what this was without a biopsy. Although the message was hard to hear, we felt we were in good hands. Dr. Weldon reassured us that we had the very best team with cross-departmental expertise. The oncology nurse Kathy Stiffler stayed behind to let us know she would be the thread of continuity throughout all of our interactions with providers. She even called us back after hours one evening. This really made us feel like we could count on the team at Boston Children’s.

As they prepped Gavin for his biopsy, anesthesiologist, Dr. David Clendenin was extremely warm and made us feel at ease. We appreciated the genuine connection that he established with us; it again reinforced that we were among friends here. Our interventional radiologist Dr. Ahmad Alomari explained in very good detail the biopsy procedure. He drew pictures for us and answered all of our questions completely. He made us feel that he was entirely focused on us. This was a consistent theme in all of our interactions.

When we rode up in the elevator and they took Gavin from mom to continue on to the OR — that was hard. One of the most remarkable interactions we had was with a woman named Barbara in the OR waiting area. My wife Rebecca was visibly distressed and Barbara, without hesitation, wrapped her arms around Rebecca in a tight embrace. Barbara began singing to her and encouraged Rebecca to have faith. It sounds bold and it was, and it was EXACTLY what Rebecca and I needed to feel safe and feel cared for. The experience of being cared for in that manner will live on with us for a lifetime.

After visiting Boston Children's Hospital for a second opinion Gavin's tumor is diagnosed as benign.

One more thing that struck us everywhere was how genuine and sweet everyone was to Gavin. Sure, we think he’s the cutest, but I’ve got to believe that your staff has seen it all. Everyone seemed to rejoice in meeting and knowing our little Gavin.

On April 26, Dr. Weldon called with the biopsy results. BENIGN! It capped the most stressful two-month period of our lives. Dr. Weldon explained that the tumor will likely not require surgery and we can track it for several years.

We are so grateful to Dr. Weldon and the whole team at Boston Children’s for the thoughtful, step-wise approach that ultimately proved to be the best course of action, without the need to subject Gavin to unnecessary surgery and all the risks. Thank you on behalf of my entire family for the great work that you do for patients and their families — not just clinically, but also in delivering a compassionate experience where we’re treated like family.

And of course here’s a parting picture of your biggest little fan Gavin…

Gavin's family travels to Boston Children's Hospital for a second opinion on their son's tumor.