Health Connect Summer 2019. Henry & Jason Banner. Henry Johnsen and Jason Bell,  a CT and MRI coordinator with Mary Greeley’s Radiology department, sit on a CT scanner. Bell treated the five-year-old, who was diagnosed with cancer when he was a 1-year-old.

Henry & Jason

A mom’s touching story of her child’s cancer, and the treatment he received at Mary Greeley.

By Julie Johnsen, Mom

Henry is our youngest child. He was born April 24, 2014. One year later, on his 1st birthday, instead of introducing him to the joys of cake, we were processing his pediatrician’s words: Henry has cancer.

To say my husband Ryan and I were stunned would be an understatement. We were the parents of two older boys, and Henry had fit right in. On top of that, I’ve been an X-ray technologist for 12 years. Why didn’t I notice something?

Well, no one noticed it. We had taken him to all of his Well Baby checkups, where his tummy and abdomen were always checked out. At his one-year appointment, though, the pediatrician felt a neuroblastoma suddenly big enough it could be palpated. The best guess is that Henry was born with it.

For the next year, Henry was always in the hospital, getting chemo, having surgery, fighting some horrible illness. Ryan and I tag-teamed with him during every stay, while the older boys – they were 6 and 8 – were cared for by family and friends. After a year and a half, Henry was declared cancer-free. But that was not the end of the story.

Life without a Spleen

One of the most devastating complications of the tumor was that it destroyed Henry’s spleen. That makes him much more susceptible to illness. He seems to pick up every single germ that’s within a two-mile radius. His doctor told us a bacterial infection could “ravage” him.

So every time he gets a fever over 100 degrees, we have to rush him to the clinic or ER. And every time he goes, he gets poked and prodded and scanned. Sometimes he ends up being admitted to the hospital.

At 5 years old, he’s had more procedures than most of us will have in our lifetimes. Some of his first words were, “Just listening today?” He was already hopeful – at two years of age – that a stethoscope would be the only piece of equipment used on him.

A Trip to Radiology

Last winter, Henry had swelling around his eye. We took him to Mary Greeley where he tested positive for an infection. They started him on IV antibiotics and admitted him, but after two days, the fever and swelling hadn’t responded. They decided to scan his head, to make sure something else wasn’t going on.

Henry has had many, many scans. They make him very anxious. He has always had to be sedated for them. This time turned out to be different.

The CT technologist, Jason Bell, directed his attention to Henry, treating our 4-year-old like he was a big boy. It made a huge difference.

Sometimes kids are talked to like they are babies, or can’t hear. Jason talked to Henry like he was one of the guys. As I was watching Henry, I could see he was relaxing. It was the first time Henry didn’t have to be sedated for a 5-minute scan. Ryan and I were actually able to step out of the room for it. Absolutely amazing.

The swelling in Henry’s eye turned out to be another virus that eventually went away. But thanks to the respectful, child-oriented perspective that Jason brought to that scan, our big boy no longer needs to be put out for a simple scan. We are beyond grateful for that.