The 2020 Hasbro Children's Hospital Radiothon

Meet Rachael. A miracle child with a fighter’s spirit.

Rachael WBarrington fourth-grader Rachael Wilmarth is a big-hearted child who loves to sing, learn, and help others. But it was Rachael who needed help when she was diagnosed with a rare, fast-growing form of leukemia on January 21, 2018—just two weeks after celebrating her seventh birthday.

“No one ever expects to hear ‘your child has cancer’,” says Stephanie Oster Wilmarth, Rachael’s mom, recalling the moment when she and her husband, Bob, got the awful news. “It’s gut wrenching, I was physically sick” she adds, “and nothing prepares you for the journey your family is about to embark on.”

Fortunately for the Wilmarths, their journey started and continues at Hasbro Children’s Hospital, which provides Rachael with world-class, compassionate care and her family with the convenience of staying close to home.

“We had opportunities to go to Boston or New York for Rachael’s treatment,” Stephanie explains, “but we opted to stay here in Rhode Island because we had full faith in the care teams at Hasbro Children’s. The people there are amazing, and the hospital has the best resources available. We really are blessed to have such a gem in our community.”

Among other things, Rachael’s treatment included high-dose chemotherapy every 21 days and she endured 15 lumbar punctures—or spinal taps—throughout the course of her treatment to monitor whether cancer cells were present in her body. Along the way, she lost her hair, experienced an adverse reaction to medication, suffered severe nose bleeds and fatigue, and even had a bout of pneumonia.

“They told us all these things were possible and it was just horrendous for her,” Stephanie admits, “and as a parent, you feel all that pain, too. But the doctors at Hasbro Children’s were always one step ahead of everything and the staff was always honest and upfront about any side effects or potential outcomes. They communicated with us throughout the entire process and made sure we understood what was going every step of the way.”

In total, Rachael spent more than six months in Hasbro Children’s Hospital. She never went home for very long during her treatment because she developed neutropenia, an abnormally low white cell count that made her very susceptible to infection. This common chemotherapy side effect often requires hospitalization to protect the immune-compromised patient. Often, Rachael wasn’t able to see friends and was allowed only minimal contact with family members.

“When you’re at the hospital for as long as we were, everybody there becomes like family to you,” Stephanie says. “Every doctor and nurse, the cleaning crew, the parking valet, the volunteers...all helped us through the worst time in our life. The people of Hasbro Children’s care deeply about the wellbeing of each child and family member and they show it. We love each of them!”

Pediatric Hematology-Oncology Specialist Bradley Denardo, MD, is Rachael’s physician at Hasbro Children’s, and Stephanie says her family “adores” him. She also greatly appreciated the efforts of all the nurses who went way above and beyond to bring some humor into an otherwise very dark time. “They made Rachael laugh and smile often,” Stephanie points out. “They brought silly string into her room, they sang with her, and Ari the parking valet would do the ‘happy dance’ with us when we pulled up to get blood checks.”

Stephanie adds that having a strong support system outside Hasbro Children’s was also key. “My amazing mother and sister never left our side—not even for one moment—and our friends and other family members helped get us through this terrible time, too. They even started a meal train that ran for five months. Everyone helped us get through this horrible time and we are forever grateful.”

Today, Rachael’s cancer has been in remission for more than two years and she’s enjoying just being a kid again and playing with her twin sister, Sophie, and big brother, Ryan. But she still has check-in visits at Hasbro Children’s every six months to ensure she’s OK—and to do another happy dance!