Published on June 13, 2018

Young Cancer Patient Regains Strength at GOPEDS


During a recent session with physical therapist Tess Peters at Genesis Outpatient Pediatric Therapy (GOPEDS) in Bettendorf, Ivory Burney-Wells looked like a typical, rambunctious 3-year-old.

She ran, kicked, rode a trike, jumped and climbed steps.

“She is doing amazing,’’ said Julie Burney, Ivory’s mom. “In February when she did her last evaluation, she wasn’t able to pedal down the hallway, or run down the hallway.’’

Ivory is making up for lost development time.  She has been fighting acute lymphoblastic leukemia, or ALL, a childhood cancer of the blood and bone marrow.

“She has been in remission since last July.  Four more years before she is considered cancer free,’’ said Julie Burney.

Unexpected Diagnosis

On June 4, 2017, Ivory was diagnosed with ALL. The diagnosis from Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis came as both a shock and in some ways, a relief.

At least the diagnosis was an explanation of Ivory’s symptoms, which included puffy eyes, congestion, but most ominously, a hard mass on her cheek.

“She was like other 2-year-olds.  She was smart, silly, loved to dance and sing and was just the happiest kid without a care in the world,’’ Julie said of her daughter.

It was allergy season.  When Ivory developed the puffy eyes and congestion, Julie figured her daughter was having an allergic reaction. Julie knew her own allergies were acting up.

“I thought maybe she had a bug bite or just having a reaction to allergies,’’ Julie said.

Unusual Mass

But when the puffiness spread and the knot formed on her left cheek, Ivory was taken back to a doctor.

“The growth was hard over her entire cheek.  We were sent to an emergency room and she had a CT done,’’ Julie explained.  “We didn’t know what was going on.  It was kind of a relief to finally get a diagnosis.’’

Ivory was not experiencing an allergic reaction.  The mass on her cheek was the first indication her condition was much more serious than allergies.
On June 23, Ivory developed a large blood clot in her upper abdomen.

The clot extended down to her legs. The swelling was so widespread, Ivory wasn’t able to walk or put any weight on her right leg. The pain and swelling were so severe, it wasn’t until July 19 that she was able to take an unassisted step.

After a month of treatment in Indiana, Ivory was transferred to Stead Children’s Hospital at the University of Iowa, where Ivory and Julie could be closer to family.

Ivory lost muscle strength. She couldn’t get up from a seated position to standing without help. She wasn’t able to get down steps.

Catching Up

Ivory started at Genesis Outpatient Pediatric Therapy in Bettendorf on Aug. 2. She is catching up physically with weekly physical therapy sessions at Genesis Outpatient Pediatric Therapy.  

Ivory’s prognosis is very good. The five-year survival rate for acute lymphoblastic leukemia is 80 to 85 percent.  She receives chemotherapy every 29 days at the hospital and takes daily chemotherapy doses at home.

“I think she has probably handled this a lot better than I have,’’ Julie added.

The Quad-Cities River Bandits are recognizing the spirit and recovery efforts of four young people this season with the Home Runs for Life recognition.  On June 22, the team will recognize Ivory Burning-Wells.

Genesis Outpatient Pediatric Therapy in Bettendorf provides comprehensive pediatric rehabilitation services for patients from birth to 21 years old. Therapy services include physical therapy, speech and language therapy and occupational therapy from highly trained therapists.

To learn more about Genesis pediatric outpatient therapy, go to www.genesishealth.com/gopeds.

-- Craig Cooper
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