Jin was a very active child who grew up living in Japan. When Jin was 3 years old, his family moved from Japan to the United States for a job opportunity. Like any family, they expected change – including cultural. However, Jin and his family never anticipated a change in Jin’s health.
In April 2021, Jin began to experience pain in his leg which made it difficult to walk. Jihyang, Jin’s mom, took him to a local emergency room. His blood work came back showing signs of abnormality. As more tests were conducted, doctors’ suspicions were confirmed -- Jin was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) – a cancer of the white blood cells.
Jin began to receive treatment at the Jonathan Jacques Children’s Cancer Institute at MemorialCare Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach. Jonathan Jacques Children’s Cancer Institute is one of only ten children’s hospitals nationwide to have full accreditation through the Commission on Cancer of the American College of Surgeons. Like many childhood cancer patients Jin’s immune system was severely compromised.
Jin’s family did all they could to protect Jin, who was severely immunocompromised from infection. However, a fungal infection had a mind of its own.
Jin contracted a potentially deadly fungus so his care team at Miller Children’s & Women’s had to switch gears. The team stopped Jin’s cancer treatments in order to best attack the fungal infection. This is the value of Miller Children’s & Women’s being a full-service children’s hospital with more than 45 specialties and 100s of sub-specialists under one roof to ensure patients like Jin have access to this specialized care.
Jin’s care team brought in a pediatric ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist and the infection disease specialists since the fungal infection progression caused parts of his facial bones and tissue to die. The Bickerstaff Family Center, infection disease specialists were able to diagnose and set a pathway to fight the fungal infection. Because the infection was located, around Jin’s nose, the ENTs were consulted to ensure his nose remained healthy.
“With a fungal infection as aggressive as the one that Jin had, it was imperative that we treated the fungus first,” said Ayal Willner, M.D., pediatric otolaryngologist, Miller Children’s & Women’s. “With assistance from the Jonathan Jaques Children’s Cancer Institute care team, myself, Dr. Namrata Varma along with the Ear, Nose and Throat Program care team, and the Infectious Disease Care Team, we met regularly and provided treatment to Jin to stop the fungual infection from growing and to ensure that it hadn’t spread. We were also mindful to keep a watchful eye on his cancer to ensure it was stable while we treated the fungal infection.”
Under the watchful care of Dr. Willner, Namrata Varma, D.O., pediatric otolaryngologist, Miller Children’s & Women’s and a handful of other care teams at Miller Children’s & Women’s, they were able to stop the progression, and ultimately the fungal infection. Having a dedicated pediatric ENT care team who attend additional years of higher education and training to study how to properly care for bodies that are still growing and developing ensures that the care provided to patients, like Jin are done so thoughtfully and with great consideration to Jin’s developmental growth.
“Jin went through an intense journey of receiving fungal treatment,” said Dr. Varma. “But Jin and his mom have been absolutely amazing throughout the process. We’re so happy to see Jin progress and get better.”
Once the fungal infection was under control. Drs. Varma and Willner helped determine the best way to remove the dead bone and tissue from Jin’s face. They also consulted with Garrett Wirth, M.D., medical director, Wound Healing Center, Long Beach Medical Center to assist with the reconstruction of Jin’s face since the dead bone and tissue affected the bridge of his nose.
On Friday, May 13, Jin had plastic surgery to remove the dead bone and tissue and help rebuild the bridge of his nose.
Since then, Jin has resumed chemotherapy. While Jin is recovering from surgery, he will be weaned off the chemotherapy treatment and will begin immunotherapy, which will consist of a cycle of 28 days.
Throughout Jin’s stay in the hospital, he meets with Child Life Specialists who support his educational, developmental, and emotional needs – helping him to just be a kid.
“Everybody has been kind and thoughtful. Not just to Jin as a patient but they thought about me as his mother,” said Jihyang. “The care teams at Miller Children’s & Women’s have never given up and wanted to give him the best treatment possible. Which they did and now Jin is doing so much better.”