When asked, “how was your childhood?”, Abbie Brouker will forever have a more complex story than many. Amidst the joys of family and community lies a health battle that would consume her life for years. At only 16 months old, Abbie was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL), a blood cancer in which a patient’s bone marrow produces ‘immature’ forms of lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell).
Thankfully for Abbie, those joys included a loving family who would fight alongside her at every step of the journey. Kristi Brouker, Abbie’s mother, whom first noticed the bruises on Abbie’s forehead that prompted the original visit to Connecticut Children’s Medical Center (CCMC) in Hartford, recalls her initial reaction.
“The doctor could tell just looking at Abbie that something bad was going on”
Just when the prognosis looked hopeful, Kristi was told that Abbie in fact had a very rare form (i.e. subtype) of Leukemia, called Mixed-Lineage Leukemia. With an original survival rate of 80%, this further diagnosis came with a much lower percentage of survival – now 20%.
With the devastating news, the Brouker family fought on. Abbie would need rigorous treatment including a bone marrow transplant to overcome the disease. Her life would soon consist of an assortment of regimens, including chemotherapy, radiation and many blood transfusions. The need for blood in the form of red blood cells and platelets serves as a norm for many patients battling blood cancers and diseases. By the time she left CCMC, that need would total more than 20 units of blood.
“My daughter would not be here without [blood donors]”
Abbie would ultimately conquer her battle. Today she is 14, enjoys sporting events and has a smile that lights up the room.