Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center

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Ileana Hidalgo, Leukemia

Ileana Hidalgo, Leukemia Survivor

"I like having fun instead of being in the hospital. I thank God and the doctors for helping me."

Treated for Cancer at Tender Age

By the time she was a toddler, Ileana Salgado had undergone two major pancreatic and liver surgeries. At age six, the little girl faced a parent’s worse nightmare – she was diagnosed with acute myelocytic leukemia (AML).

“A minor touch would leave a bruise,” explains her mom, Ivette Herrera. “She had bruises on her legs and arms.” While concerned, Ivette says her daughter had undergone routine blood work and she was assured everything was fine.

After a family vacation, Ivette became alarmed by more bruises, accompanied by fever and body aches. Soon thereafter, doctors discovered Ileana had AML, a disease that causes cancerous cells to replace normal cells in a person’s bone marrow.

Julio C. Barredo, M.D., a pediatric oncologist and the director of Children’s Cancer Programs at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, became Ileana’s doctor.

For cases classified as high risk, treatment for this type of cancer usually involves a bone marrow transplant, ideally from a sibling. Since Ileana’s sister was not a match and her cancer was considered intermediate risk, she was instead treated with chemotherapy.

“I like having fun instead of being in the hospital. I thank God and the doctors for helping me.” “Because of her previous medical history, she was a lot more susceptible to develop complications as a result of therapy,” explains Dr. Barredo.

As a part of the University of Miami Health System, Sylvester boasts a team of experts prepared to treat any medical issue.

“We have an incredible program to monitor and treat long-term complications that may result from cancer care treatment led by national experts such as Drs. Lipshultz and Armstrong,” Dr. Barredo says. Steven Lipshultz, M.D., is professor and chair of Pediatrics, and F. Daniel Armstrong, Ph.D., is professor of Pediatrics, and director of the Mailman Center for Child Development at the Miller School of Medicine.

This follow-up care is especially important in children who are still developing. “There’s no place in Florida that can match these capabilities,” adds Dr. Barredo. In fact, Sylvester has the only program in South Florida offering Phase 1 clinical trials for pediatric cancer.

“At the beginning, it was difficult. But after the doctor … said that 99 percent of the cancer had been removed, that there was only one percent that we had to deal with, that’s when your soul returns to your body a little bit, because you have something more to live for,” Ivette says.

Today, Ileana is seven years old and continues to test negative for cancer. “She’s in school now, and likes it very much,” Ivette says. She’s enjoying the simple pleasures of childhood again. She visits Dr. Barredo every three months to ensure she is cancer free, to assess if there’s toxicity from her treatment, and so doctors can monitor her growth.

“Our goal is to secure the best quality of life possible [for our pediatric patients] so they can grow up to be productive members of society,” Dr. Barredo says.

Ileana is well on her way, and has even developed an extended family in the process. “You feel desperate when you see your child sick,” recalls Ivette. “The nurses treated her very well, and would help me. We still visit them … we forged a friendship.”

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