CHARLOTTE, NC - Erin Santos cherishes the seven years she had with her little girl Isabella before she lost her battle with neuroblastoma cancer in 2012. Friday would have been Isabella's 13th birthday.
"For me, as parent, all you want to do is feel that there is a way that your child is still alive," Santos explained.
Now, Santos is keeping her daughter’s memory alive through The Isabella Santos Foundation. She's made it her mission to help other families.
Neuroblastoma most often hits children under 5 years old. The Foundation has gifted $1 million to the Levine Children's Hospital for a special room that will allow a child battling neuroblastoma cancer to be with family during radiation treatment. Children will now be able to travel to Charlotte to receive care that once wasn’t possible. The room will be one of only 20 in the country.
Santos says her daughter received the Metaiodobenzylguanidine (MIBG) treatment. It's a compound that's combined with radioactive iodine to deliver targeted radiation therapy.
"She was completely cancer free, so it did work for her. The problem was that her cancer was relentless, and it kept coming back," she said.
Construction will begin on the new MIBG room at Levine in a few weeks and will be available to families by the end of this year.
Because the child could give off radiation during treatment, all the walls will be lined with lead to protect anyone who goes in the room. Every inch of the room will also be covered in plastic to prevent the radiation from spreading.
There will also be a conjoining room with a window so parents can stay with their child during the 3 to 5 days of treatment.
Christy Baucom's son Ethan is currently battling neuroblastoma. She told us she's thankful he's recovering, but she's also grateful for this new resource if he needs it.
"If he does, it will be here in in Charlotte with a support system that we trust," she said.
Doctors say the treatment could immediately help between 15 and 20 families. Although the radiation treatment specifically targets neuroblastoma cells, the new room could also be used to help young adults fighting other cancerous tumors.
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