Holding her little brother’s hand, Gemma Farrell, age 6, walked alongside her family to the hospital where she was receiving her final IV treatment for a rare pediatric disease. Walking through the automatic sliding doors of Kootenai Health, a giant smile spread across her face as a slew of hospital staff blew bubbles, cheered, and welcomed her to the hospital for the last time.
“We’ve seen Gemma at first every other week, and now monthly, for nearly two years,” Adrianne Golob, clinical care nurse expert on Kootenai‘s pediatric unit, said. “Gemma is an old soul in a little body. She’s spunky, brave and strong. We’ve been a part of her family and watched as she and her brother have grown through this process. It’s really special.”
Gemma suffers from systemic juvenile Rheumatoid arthritis, a rare condition that affects her joints. After being diagnosed in early 2018, Gemma began receiving treatment in Seattle before her family, pediatrician, and the pediatric staff at Kootenai Health collaborated to find a way to provide care closer to home. Living in Kellogg, making the trip to Seattle, or even Spokane was quite burdensome for the family.
“Being able to receive care in a hometown hospital was a relief,” Chelsea Newby, Gemma’s mom, said. “We saw the same faces every time, got to spend time with them. We got to see the people that grew to love and care for Gemma every time. We spent two of her birthdays, Christmas, and my birthday together and everyone took each celebration to the next level. We have a smooth routine and they know what works for her.”
To help celebrate her last treatment, hospital staff arranged for Gemma to be the first to test-drive a new toy Jeep, purchased for the pediatric unit through the Kootenai Health Foundation. Adorned with streamers, trailing cups, and a sign, Gemma took a nice long joyride though the hospital, waving at staff and visitors along the way.
“It was a team effort between Coeur d’Alene Pediatrics, our vascular access team, pharmacy, and our pediatric department to make this happen,” Golob said. “It’s really neat to be able to have an opportunity to make a difference for Gemma and her family. We hope to be able to offer this service to more kids in our region.”
After so many hospital visits, doctor appointments, and medications, the relief felt by Gemma’s family was nearly palpable.
“When she was first admitted to the hospital she was in so much pain she could barely walk,” Newby said, watching her daughter hop in and out of the new Jeep with her little brother. “It was intense, it still is intense, but from here on out we’ll be able to manage her medications at home and wean her off most of them. Everyone has been so supportive, we have an amazing community.”