Isabella Ieraci was not even 2 years old when diagnosed with stage 4 high-risk neuroblastoma in June 2015. Since then, “Bella the Brave” has been treated at Cohen Children’s Medical Center, enduring intensive treatment including chemotherapy, surgery, radiation, antibody therapy and two stem cell transplants.
Like all patients who undergo a stem cell transplant, Isabella was isolated following her procedure. “A patient remains in his or her room for about a month during the engraftment process, which determines if the blood cells start to grow and make new cells,” said Jeffrey Lipton, MD, PhD, director of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology and Stem Cell Transplantation at Cohen Children’s.
Isabella’s first stay in the Gambino Medical & Science Foundation Stem Cell Transplant Unit lasted 23 days. Each night, either Isabella’s mother, Jennifer, or father, Peter, slept in a chair, alternating nights at home with their older children, Sophia and Alexa. The original unit — built in 1991 — was the region’s first for pediatrics and solidified Cohen Children’s as a destination hospital for pediatric cancer care.
Prior to Isabella’s second transplant in April 2016, the unit was renovated and expanded through the generosity of the Gambino Medical & Science Foundation, providing more modern and spacious rooms. Ms. Ieraci says the Gambinos’ continued commitment to improve the unit made a “world of difference” for her family.
Mom or dad once again slept in the hospital with Bella, but this time on a pull-out bed, in an isolation room with a private bathroom and a small play table. “Pediatric cancer is life changing for the entire family,” said Ms. Ieraci. “We stayed in the new unit with our little ‘Bella the Brave’ for 32 days, and the renovations gave us our sanity back a bit.”
“Our goal is to maintain an appealing and comfortable space for patients and their families throughout their bone marrow transplant journey,” said Dr. Lipton. The Gambinos’ support over three decades made the goal a reality.
“Our foundation is committed to supporting the superior care of children provided at Cohen Children’s,” said Thomas Gambino Sr. The Ieraci family is forever grateful.