2022 Honored Patient: Ben
It has been a long journey for 14-year-old Ben and his family. When his mother, Laura, noticed her active 2 ½ year old son starting to limp, not wanting to put any weight on his leg and only wanting to be carried, she became concerned. After multiple doctor visits with not many answers, they eventually ended up at Children’s Minnesota where Ben was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia on June 16, 2010.
Ben immediately started chemotherapy, but 6 weeks later he was unable to walk again because the chemotherapy caused him to experience neuropathy from his toes to his hips. Ben started routinely seeing a physical therapist and wearing orthotics, but future chemo treatments combined with natural growth caused him to endure hours of physical therapy with Lynn Tanner at Children’s Minnesota, be fitted for multiple types of orthotics and different soled shoes and spend limitless hours doing therapy at home.
Ben also experienced some rare side effects from the chemotherapy as the mercaptopurine caused his body to become hypoglycemic. He was only the third patient treated at Children’s Minnesota to have such a severe response to the drug, which ultimately inhibited Ben’s liver from storing enough glucose overnight and causing his body to shut down and stop working. His glucose was tested every morning and his evening food choices were carefully planned to give his body a chance at being functional when he woke up the next morning.
Cancer treatment affects so many more than just the patient. Ben had a number of friends and family members who helped during his journey, but none more than his older brother Calvin, who always encouraged Ben to do his physical therapy exercises - oftentimes doing them with him. Calvin came up with creative ways to add physical therapy components to the board games they played and encouraged Ben every step of the way.
“Most of the other kids at school had no idea what Calvin endured,” Laura said. “If they did, I am sure they too would admire the strength he possessed at such an age. I credit Calvin with much of Ben's physical therapy successes.”
With the encouragement of Calvin during the three-plus years of treatment, followed by four years of post-treatment complications, Ben’s last dose of chemo was in August 2013, and his final physical therapy treatment was in January of 2017. During those seven years, Ben stopped walking twice and needed to relearn how to put one foot in front of the other, how to hop, how to skip, how to jump and how to run. Today, Ben is 14 years old, cancer free, and remarkably, a cross country runner and track athlete who specializes in the hurdles at his high school.
“Thank you to everyone at Children’s Minnesota who helped make Ben who he is today,” Laura said. “I know Ben would not be the active guy he is if he did not have a premier, inquisitive medical team who searched around the world to understand why Ben’s body responded the way it did to the chemotherapy. The Children’s Minnesota rehabilitation team worked with Ben’s body tirelessly trying to predict how it might break down next and how to support what little they had to work with to keep him walking. Without these teams of physicians, nurses and rehabilitation specialists, Ben would not be the kid standing in front of us who chooses to sprint around a track in his spare time. For his life and his life’s successes, we are forever indebted to Children’s Minnesota. Thank you."