Meet Beckett Avra

 

“Love, care and genuine selflessness” are the words that come to mind when Beck Avra’s mom, Emily, is asked to describe the staff and faculty at Arkansas Children’s Hospital. “I’ve never felt like we were second in line to anything else,” she says. “It’s something you can’t put a price on.”

That kind of responsiveness and attentiveness was evident from the beginning. When the Avras arrived at Arkansas Children’s in the middle of the night in June of 2016, from Lowell, Arkansas, Emily says they were “scared out of our minds.” Beck, who had just turned four, had been running a low-grade fever for several weeks. When their family pediatrician ordered lab work, the results were swift, conclusive and terrifying. Beck had leukemia and his white blood count was so high, he was at risk for a stroke. There was no time to lose. “I was still in my car when I got the call,” remembers Emily. “He said he hated to tell me over the phone, but we had to get Beck to the regional hospital immediately and transfer him to Arkansas Children’s.” When the ambulance arrived in Little Rock at 1:30 the following morning, the ACH team sprang into action.

Emily says she was amazed at how quickly things moved. “We got the call from the pediatrician at 5:58 p.m. June 8, and by 8 a.m. June 10, Beck was having a port placed, his first spinal chemo and a marrow biopsy. All of that before we could even identify the definitive type of leukemia.”

Beck’s diagnosis turned out to be very-high-risk acute lymphoblastic leukemia, calling for a rigorous chemotherapy protocol. Beck, says his mom, “sailed right through it,” but it was an extremely challenging and stressful time, during which the personal care and support shown to the entire family was invaluable to Emily, Brian, and Beck’s older sister, Austyn. Emily says that the nursing staff became their extended family. She also gives credit to the Child Life specialists and their amazing social worker, Tara, for having an intuitive understanding of the family’s needs, particularly where Austyn was affected. Two years older than Beck, Austyn had to deal with anxiety over her little brother as well as frequent separations from her parents during the most intense phase of his treatment. “They have always done a fantastic job of making sure Austyn is included. If there was a present for Beck, there was one for Austyn.”

In the middle of Beck’s treatment, Arkansas Children’s Northwest (ACNW) campus opened, enabling him to do outpatient treatment closer to home. “The opportunity that newly diagnosed families in Northwest Arkansas have for care close to home is something that would have made a huge difference in our journey,” says Emily. “We love our family at the Little Rock campus, but we did not love that drive.” Beck, whose end-of-treatment date is set for the fall, still goes to Little Rock every 12 weeks for spinal chemo but is able to receive maintenance chemotherapy at ACNW. Emily says the transition has been smooth and communication between campuses has been great.

“The level of care we have received over the three years we’ve been walking through this cancer battle with Beck is top notch. There’s absolutely no need for us to go anywhere else. We have the best of the best, in Little Rock and now at the northwest campus.”

Beck, now in kindergarten, talks about being a doctor or nurse when he grows up – a testament, Emily says, to his deep affection for his team at Arkansas Children’s. “Everyone we’ve encountered there possesses that passion and selfless care. It’s been an amazing experience.”

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