CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - A special lead-lined room is opening Wednesday at Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte to treat rare cancers. Isabella Santos, 7, and her never-ending fight against cancer inspired and funded the room.
Santos died of neuroblastoma in 2012. She was diagnosed at two years old. Santos' family and community supporters raised $1 million to create the special room that will help kids with specific cancers get treatment in Charlotte.
Santos received a special therapy (MIBG) that added 10 months to her life, including another Christmas with her family.
Santos had to leave her Charlotte hometown in 2011 for MIBG treatment in Philadelphia. The treatment could only be done in a lead-lined hospital room, designed to keep the therapy’s radioactivity in check.
Thanks to the Isabella Santos Foundation, future children fighting cancer will be able to nest into the special room in Charlotte - the MIBG therapy suite.
“The last couple hours she was alive, I just held her hand and rubbed it,” Santos' mother said bluntly through tears a couple years ago. “Even though she had started to turn gray, I never looked away from her. I watched her the whole time she died. I owed that to her.”
“I just think if anyone had to watch what we watched there would be a cure tomorrow,” she said. “To watch your child’s skin slowly not be pink anymore… it’s your worst nightmare."
In six short years, The Isabella Santos Foundation donated a million dollars to neuroblastoma research and other related causes. The fund-raised money has gone toward construction of the room as well as activities to keep children comfortable and entertained while in treatment.
The floor and walls in the MIBG room at Levine Children’s hospital will be lined with lead. Parents will be able to watch their child recover from home and through a lead-lined window.
The treatment is so harsh and poisonous that a parent can’t touch their child for three days afterwards without protection. Although the treatment sounds scary, it can save lives.
There are only 20 lead-lined rooms in the country, including the newest addition at Levine’s.
“Thanks to the foundation created in Isabella’s honor, children from Charlotte with rare types of cancer can stay close to home to get this cutting-edge treatment,” Atrium Health says.