EL PASO, Texas - El Paso Children's Hospital sees about 60 new cases of cancer in children every year, but thanks to a partnership with a research institute, the hospital has access to treatments that would normally not be available to Borderland families.
"It's devastating. You hear the worst possible words that you can imagine, learning that your child, at the tender age at three, has cancer," said Susana Obregon, whose dauther Susana suffers from a form of Leukemia.
Although it's one of the most curable forms of cancer, that was not the case for the seven-year-old.
"It's very rare for kids to relapse, but she was that kid," Obregon said.
After a bone-marrow transplant in Houston, little Susana was ready to start kindergarten.
She encountered another setback. "We learned she had relapsed for the second time," Ortega said.
Not wanting her daughter to undergo another bone-marrow transplant, Ortega decided on a clincial trial in Philadelphia.
"We were living a more normal life and then a year after this treatment was done, she was six, we learned she had relapsed for the third time."
Susana has since been able to achieve remission, but now needs another bone-marrow transplant.
When doctors searched through a database, they were unable to find a good match for Susana.
That's when doctors suggested a more experimental procedure.
"We're going to do a haploidentical, but it's not something that is done very often," Ortega said, adding the new procedure would not be possible without the help of El Paso Children's Hospital.
The hospital is part of the cancer oncology group.
"It gives us and our patients and their families extra opportunities that you wouldn't have if you weren't part of that," said Lisa Hartman, the principal investigator for Children's Oncology Group, "If it we werent' part of the cog, I don't think she would have been accepted."
Susana still has long journey ahead, but her mother has faith in her. "My daughter has been a four time leukemia fighter and she's going to be a four time leukemia survivor," Ortega said.
Susana isn't the only child depending on a bone marrow transplant. If you would like to be the cure for a blood cancer patient, El Paso Children's is hosting a match screening event Thursday.
All it takes is a quick swab of the cheek. Click here for more information.