Steve and Liz Apel thought their 6-year-old son, Cameron, was a perfectly healthy kid. He got sick more often than his 4-year-old brother, Harrison, but it seemed like that was just a matter of germs circulating through his classroom. Then, in February of 2022, they left their home in Slinger to visit Steve’s grandmother up north. “Cameron was coughing every five seconds,” Liz recalls. “We told him that when we get home, we’re going straight to Children’s Wisconsin Emergency Department.”
At Children’s Wisconsin Milwaukee Hospital, blood work revealed that Cameron’s hemoglobin, platelet and neutrophil levels were far below where they should be. He was admitted, and a month passed during which Liz and Steve alternated nights and days at his bedside while he underwent tests. He was diagnosed with severe aplastic anemia, a bone marrow disorder that, when untreated, has a very high death rate. The Apels were introduced to Dr. David Margolis, MD, a pediatric oncologist at Children’s since 1992 and one of the nation’s leading experts in bone marrow transplants, who specializes in aplastic anemia. “Those first days were really painful,” Steve says. “Dr. Margolis and his whole team really took us step by step through every day.”
“We’re not taking care of a disease – we’re taking care of the kid and the family,” Dr. Margolis says. “My first way of doing that is by learning what keeps the kid in the game. For some kids, it’s sports; for some, it’s music and art. For Cam, it was racing.”
Steve is a driver at Slinger Super Speedway, and Dr. Margolis found that talking about racing helped get Cameron through his hospital stay. He also found that Cameron’s brother was a bone marrow match and could provide a transplant. “I would come in with lists of questions, and Dr. Margolis would spend every second he could to reassure me,” Liz says.
Fortunately, the transplant, done at The MACC Fund Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Children’s Wisconsin, was a success. Six months later, Cameron is still recovering, but he’s doing much better – and he’s back in school. “We were very fortunate to have Children’s in our backyard,” Liz says. “We’re grateful to be so close to a world-renowned team.” “Children’s provides outstanding care,” says Dr. Margolis. “We research, we educate and we take care of kids and their entire family. And we do that in a way that is compassionate, comprehensive and cutting-edge.”
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• Children’s Wisconsin is one of the nation’s top-ranked pediatric health systems. They go beyond treating kids only when they are sick or injured and care for the whole child – their physical, social and mental health – through nationally ranked clinical care, advocacy, leading research and education.
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