There is nothing more devastating than holding your newborn for the first time and having her taken away just days later to be taken to the neonatal intensive care unit.
That’s exactly what happened to Leann Borden when she gave birth to Lillian Grace on September 5, 2019. It was supposed to be a life-changing day – the day when she and her husband, Patrick, would meet their first baby. However, the excitement they were feeling upon holding their beautiful angel would soon turn into worry as a nurse noticed something unusual with baby Lily – her limbs weren’t moving.
“She came out paralyzed, pretty much,” Leann told CNN. “Her limbs weren’t moving like they should and that’s what caused curiosity, like something’s not right. So after she was born, one nurse was checking her out, and then all of a sudden, five nurses were in the hospital room.”
Multiple tests were done while Lily stayed in the hospital. All the results came back normal but before she was sent home, another doctor ordered an MRI.
The test revealed an ominous spot on Lily’s brain stem. By then, the newborn was having difficulty breathing so they rushed her to the neonatal intensive care unit where she was put on a breathing tube and a gastric feeding tube.
The MRI result was something that doctors had never seen before, so they consulted with UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland. After arrangements were finalized, Leanne and her baby were flown to the city on a medical transport plane.
After more tests and days of painful waiting, the Bordens received the devastating news – their baby was born with a tumor on her brain stem. By the time of the next MRI, it had developed and moved to her brain stem down her spinal cord to below her shoulders. A biopsy showed that the growth was a stage 3-4 glioma brain tumor.
“I was devastated. I think maybe as a woman, as the mom, because you’re the one carrying the kid, you feel a lot of guilt. You’re like, ‘What did I do to cause this?’ And for (the doctors) to look at you and say, ‘It’s just bad luck,’ I think that devastates me even more because you can’t even blame yourself,” Leanne said she felt upon learning of the diagnosis.
Lily had to undergo emergency surgery as the tumor was cutting off her airway. Doctors started her on a targeted chemotherapy treatment and though it was harsh even for adults, Leanne said that her baby handled it like a “rock star.”
After weeks of chemotherapy at the Oakland hospital, the news they’ve been waiting for finally came – Lily was declared cancer-free in January! The happy day was celebrated with the symbolic ringing of the bell in the hospital, indicating the end to her cancer treatment.
The emotional moment was captured on video, and Leanne had nothing to say but thanks to the hospital staff who took care of Lily throughout the month-long treatment.
“To everyone who has been through this journey with us, this is our big moment with lily! We thank everyone who has been with us this whole time. From all of the donations,text messages and prayers. We hope you enjoy this video! And now her name will be hung forever,” she wrote in a post.
Witness the emotional moment baby Lily rang the ‘cancer-free’ bell in the video below.