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  • All for One: Caitlynn Zinni

  • Caitlynn Zinni was a healthy, happy five-year-old when her mother noticed some unusual bruising on her legs during a Memorial Day picnic. She'd been running a slight fever and seemed tired, so her mother took Caitlynn to see their pediatrician.

    Caitlynn Zinni
    Caitlynn and Douglas Harrison, MD

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    Within minutes, she knew something was very wrong. "The doctor told us, 'Go directly to Hasbro Children's, I want blood work,'" Heather Zinni remembers. "We stopped to get Caitlynn's security blanket and we went straight to the hospital."

    Within hours, Caitlynn had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia, and the family's life had been turned upside down. "They took us in a room and told us Caitlynn was very sick and they wanted to start treatment right away," Heather says. "We were just reeling."

    Caitlynn remained in the hospital for 32 days, with periodic readmissions since then. Now seven years old, she has undergone radiation to the brain and more than two years of weekly chemotherapy, along with other procedures.

    The good news is that her treatment has been effective, and Caitlynn's prognosis is now very positive. Throughout the long ordeal, Hasbro Children's nurses and physicians, including Douglas Harrison, MD, Dale Steele, MD and others were of enormous support to the whole family.

    "From the minute we met Dr. Harrison, the day she was diagnosed, Caitlynn just took to him," says Heather. "He's been through everything with us. He made Caitlynn feel comfortable, and that made things so much easier. Dr. Steele was with us the day she was diagnosed in the emergency room, and he was just incredible."

    During Caitlynn's long hospital stays, her little sister Catrina would visit daily, and the nurses and child life staff members took care to entertain and welcome both girls. "The nurses and doctors were just like family to us," says Heather. "They would come in and do crafts with both girls, and just keep them thinking about other stuff besides being sick. A lot of times Caitlynn couldn't leave her room, because her immune system was compromised, and they would bring everything to her: toys, games, magicians."

    Since Caitlynn became an outpatient, the Tomorrow Fund Clinic has been a warm and welcoming place as well. "When Caitlynn first started there, she was so frightened I could hardly get her through the door," says Heather. "Now I can barely get her and her sister out of there, they're having so much fun joking around with all the nurses."

    "We have not met one person there who hasn't been amazing," Heather adds. "It's been a long haul, but they have really made it easier."

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