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Our Best for Their Best, Always

Helping all kids be their best is what we do every day. For the best specialty care in the region, families turn to Levine Children’s Hospital – named a Best Children’s Hospital by U.S. News & World Report in multiple specialties for the ninth year in a row.

And for exceptional care right in your neighborhood, you can count on the expertise of our pediatricians, urgent care centers and specialty clinics – now connected by the Levine Children’s name and backed by the strength of one of the nation’s top children’s hospitals.

Below, learn how our top-ranked care is helping patients be their best.

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On the Rebound: Cancer Can’t Keep Alex Sidelined

“It was hard, but they really helped me through it. I look at the positive, thanks to them.”

Alex, bone cancer patient

Basketball was everything to 11-year-old Alex Bogran – until a sudden leg injury left him sidelined last year. When Alex’s doctors couldn’t find a break or fracture to explain his worsening pain, they called for an MRI.

The results of the MRI were grim: Alex didn’t have an injury – he had osteosarcoma, the most common childhood bone cancer. "It was scary, but I knew everything was going to be okay," Alex recalls of the diagnosis. "Everything works out in the end."

For Alex, treatment would be far from easy. It required months of chemotherapy, plus a major surgery to remove the tumor and replace his knee. But his positive attitude never waned, making one thing clear: Treating cancer is tough, but Alex Bogran is tougher.

The full-court press of cancer treatment

Alex’s treatment required top specialists in oncology and orthopedics, and Levine Children’s Hospital was just the place for him to get all the cancer care he needed. "We’ve got some of the best in the country here, so it’s pretty incredible," says Javier Oesterheld, MD, a pediatric hematologist and oncologist at Levine Children’s.

The first stage of Alex’s treatment was chemotherapy, which is hard for anyone, but it’s especially difficult for kids and their families.

Knowing that, Alex’s care team put an idea into action: They devised a backpack that lets patients like Alex complete almost all of their chemo treatments at home. "I think that really changed things for him, to be honest. You saw a new Alex," says Dr. Oesterheld. "You saw a much brighter, happier kid. That’s really the reason why we offer it."

For the things that still required him to go to the hospital – like his surgery – Alex’s care team did everything they could to make his time at LCH as comfortable as possible. "It was hard, but they really helped me through it. I look at the positive, thanks to them," Alex says.

A slam dunk for a more normal life

Since his knee replacement surgery, Alex has hit a lot of milestones. But there’s one milestone that surpasses them all: In February of 2018, Alex celebrated his last round of chemotherapy.

These days, Alex is in physical therapy, where he’s learning to walk again. And one day, he’ll re-learn to jump, so he can get back on the court doing what he loves most.

Alex will continue to see his Levine Children’s care team frequently, to make sure the cancer isn’t coming back, but he’s well on the rebound. And through it all, Alex’s positive attitude has persevered, as has his never-failing belief that everything always works out in the end.

Heart Surgery Means a Better Future for Alisha

“To see her like this, to know that what they did helped us have a life with her – I think it’s rewarding. And I think she agrees.”

Shayla Nettey, Alisha's mom

For Shayla and Ralph Nettey, parenthood was gearing up to be everything they’d ever hoped for. But at the 20-week ultrasound, the first-time parents received a crushing diagnosis: Their unborn daughter Alisha had hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS).

Hypoplastic left heart syndrome is a congenital birth defect in which one side of the heart – the side that pumps blood throughout the body – hasn’t fully developed. The only treatment for HLHS is a three-stage surgery, which is especially risky for newborns. But without it, Alisha wouldn’t survive.

The Netteys were referred to Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute and Levine Children’s Hospital by their doctor in Greensboro, who recommended Atrium Health’s heart program above all others in the area.

"We’re fortunate to have this heart center right here in Charlotte, in our own backyard," says Thomas Maxey, MD, Alisha’s pediatric heart surgeon. "But we’re also fortunate that we’re becoming a referring center for the Southeast, and even further across the nation."

After touring the facility and meeting Alisha’s care team, the Netteys knew right away that this was the best place for their baby girl.

A successful surgery

Two days after Alisha was born in December, she had her first heart surgery, and it was a success. Just a few weeks later, the infant and her parents were recovering and ready to go home.

From the compassionate nurses who cared for her in the NICU to the care team who gave Alisha her first bow at Christmas, the Netteys have never doubted their little girl’s heart is in the best hands.

"There are so many things we can’t control in this situation, but they helped us have confidence in what they could control," says Shayla. "They were so patient with us. They were very loving. They treated us like family."

Beyond their best expectations

Today, baby Alisha is thriving and loves everything from listening to hip-hop to hearing bedtime stories. "Her energy levels are so much better now after the second surgery," says Shayla. "She’s passed every expectation with flying colors."

After her third and hopefully final operation in a few years, things will only keep getting better for Alisha. "I expect her to live a normal life," says Dr. Maxey. "I want her to go to school and drive cars and just live a normal life, well into adulthood."

For Shayla and Ralph, parenthood is nothing like they expected – if anything, they say it’s better than they expected. And they’re thankful for every day they have with Alisha. "To see her like this, to know that what they did helped us have a life with her – I think it’s rewarding," says Shayla, smiling down at her cooing daughter. "And I think she agrees."

For Theo, A New Kidney Means a New Life – Without Limits

“More than anything, we feel really grateful to have a world-class children’s hospital a mile from our house.”

Nick Foy, Theo’s dad

Theo Foy was born with kidneys so severely damaged, they couldn’t function on their own. And shortly after his birth, he was started on dialysis, as well as a feeding tube to keep him nourished.

While his treatments helped his kidneys function – and helped him grow – they limited everything from where he could go to what he could eat. "Overall, he did well on dialysis, but we know that dialysis will only get you so far," says Jack Weaver, MD, Theo’s nephrologist at Levine Children’s.

For Theo, dialysis and feeding tubes were only short-term solutions – what he really needed to thrive was a kidney transplant. And when Theo was a year and a half, he was cleared to receive a very special kidney, from a very special person.

A very special aunt

While Theo’s parents, Nick and Natalie, had a lot of family members who wanted to be Theo’s donor, only one was a match: Natalie’s older sister, Whitney.

The day they’d all been waiting for came in April of 2013. Theo and his Aunt Whitney met in the pre-operating room to give each other one big hug before the life-changing surgery. "Our family was there to celebrate and be part of the whole process," recalls Natalie. "We sent them off, both with smiles as they went into their operating rooms."

Thanks to a very special aunt and a care team that now feels like family, Theo had a successful transplant and the chance for a better, brighter childhood.

Sky’s the limit

Before his transplant, Theo was very sick; he didn’t eat much and had little energy. Now 6 years old, Theo eats everything from pizza to popsicles to even clams. And he has lots of energy, which he’ll need since he’s entering first grade.

As Theo continues to reach milestones that before weren’t guaranteed, the Foys continue to be grateful for their entire care team at Levine Children’s Hospital – which they fondly refer to as their "homespital."

"There have been a lot of ups and downs along the way, but we’ve felt the whole time like we’re in really great hands," says Nick. "More than anything, we feel really grateful to have a world-class children’s hospital a mile from our house."

Since receiving his new kidney – fondly named W, after Aunt Whitney – Theo’s parents say he has no sense of limitations. The sky’s the limit for Theo, who loves all things planes, trains and automobiles. But for now, he’s just enjoying life as a 6-year-old boy, which is the best outcome of all.

Learning to Walk: A Brighter Future for Emmett

“My hope for Emmett is that he has as normal a childhood as he can have, and he’s doing that.”

Brian Brighton, MD, MPH, pediatric orthopedic surgeon

Moments after Emmett Medici was born, his heartrate spiked. He was crying beyond the point of comfort. Something was wrong.

X-rays revealed multiple fractures throughout Emmett’s tiny body – from his arms to his legs to his collarbones and even some of his vertebrate. "They stopped counting at 30," recalls Brian, Emmett’s dad.

But X-rays only told part of the story, and the Medicis came to Levine Children’s Hospital seeking answers. What they got was a diagnosis: Emmett has osteogenesis imperfecta (OI), a condition that causes fragile, hard-to-build bones. Commonly known as brittle bone disease, OI can lead to deformities, loose joints and, for Emmett, a childhood filled with fractures.

After meeting the team who’d be caring for Emmett and learning more about the program at Levine Children’s – one of the best orthopedic programs in the region – the Medicis knew they were exactly where they needed to be.

Hope for a brighter childhood

Even with infusion treatments to build and strengthen his bones, Emmett’s recurrent fractures worsened as he entered childhood – especially in his legs. Although not all OI patients need surgery, it proved to be Emmett’s best chance for a brighter childhood, with fewer fractures.

Over the course of a year, Emmett underwent two surgeries at Levine Children’s Hospital, receiving rods first for his femurs, then for his tibias. Emmett’s surgeries were a success, with his parents saying he "breezed right through it."

Since receiving the rods, he hasn’t had a single leg fracture. And that’s only the start. The expandable rods will not only help prevent fractures, but as Emmett continues to grow, they’ll grow with him.

A life beyond fractures

Today, Emmett is enjoying a life outside of the hospital, a life with fewer fractures – a life as a fun-loving kid. He’s a Cub Scout and superheroes are his favorite thing – fitting choices for someone as brave as he is.

"My hope for Emmett is that he has as normal a childhood as he can have, and he’s doing that," says Brian Brighton, MD, MPH, Emmett’s pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Levine Children’s.

And that’s not all.

Before his surgery, Emmett’s condition made walking impossible. But now, the 6-year-old is in physical therapy, where he’s learning to walk for the very first time in his life.

These days, Emmett isn’t just hoping for a better future – he’s walking there.

Titus Gets to Be a Kid Again, Thanks to New Laser Technology

“Titus and his family are still on their epilepsy treatment journey, but the surgery has significantly helped reduce his seizure burden.”

Nicole Brockway, MD, pediatric neurologist

Titus Grandstaff was ahead of the curve, developing faster in almost all areas than most toddlers his age. But in August of 2015, everything changed for Titus and his family.

At just 3 years old, Titus started having seizures.

He stayed overnight at Atrium Health Levine Children’s Jeff Gordon Children’s Center in Concord, where specialists closely monitored his brain activity. In the first two hours alone, Titus had over 200 seizures.

Diagnosed with epilepsy, his condition only worsened, and Titus began displaying every type of seizure, every day. His care team knew they needed to act – and fast.

Going straight to the source

Medications helped manage Titus’ seizures, but they also made him listless and tired. Besides, his Levine Children’s care team wanted to do more than manage his seizures – they wanted to go straight to the source.

And that’s exactly what they did. "We were able to find a small spot in his brain called a heterotopia that was causing many of his seizures," says Nicole Brockway, MD, a pediatric neurologist at Levine Children’s.

Using a new laser technology – called laser ablation – Titus underwent minimally invasive surgery at Levine Children’s Hospital to clear up the area in his brain that was causing his seizures. Ultimately, this procedure will result in not only fewer seizures, but also fewer medications.

"Titus and his family are still on their epilepsy treatment journey, but the surgery has significantly helped reduce his seizure burden," says Dr. Brockway.

Catching up in every way

Before Titus’ surgery, he was taking 10 medications and having seizures all the time – even with his eyes open, even when he was talking, even when you couldn’t tell. In the year since his laser ablation procedure at LCH, he’s down to four medications and is seizure-free during the day.

At their worst, Titus’ seizures made even standing a challenge, and he was struggling to learn at school. Now an outgoing kindergartener who’s never met a stranger, Titus is well on his way to catching up academically.

"Before, it really was a thing where Titus wouldn’t be able to live a normal life. He wouldn’t be able to go out and get a job and be on his own," says Kammie, Titus’ mom. "Now he’s going to be able to do all those things, and that’s just amazing."

Most importantly, a life with fewer seizures means that 6-year-old Titus can pick up right where he left off – and just be a kid again.

With the Right Treatment, Carley is Back to Being Herself

“I’m very happy with how I’m doing.”

Carley Keller, colitis patient

If you saw Carley Keller today, you’d see an energetic 15-year-old girl who’s as healthy as she is full of life. You’d never guess that, less than a year ago, she was a shell of the person she is now.

When Carley was 14 years old, she began having an array of symptoms, from abdominal pain to weight loss. A cheerleader with a vibrant personality, she suddenly felt tired all the time – and she just wasn’t herself. "I couldn’t even make it at school for the whole day, so I only went for half the day. And I also couldn’t cheer, which was the hardest part," says Carley.

Carley’s mom Crecia knew something was wrong with her daughter and brought her to Levine Children’s Hospital, where Carley was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. Ulcerative colitis is an autoimmune disease that can affect the entire colon and causes inflammation and ulcers.

Though the diagnosis was far from easy, Carley and her family found solace in an answer. "We were in a hole for so long. We didn’t really know what was wrong, so when I got diagnosed, I was like, ‘Okay, I can probably get better. It’s going to get better from here,’" recalls Carley.

A solution, without surgery

At the time of her diagnosis, Carley’s condition was so aggressive, there was a chance she’d need surgery to have her colon removed. But fortunately, her care team found the right balance of medication and infusion to best manage her disease – without surgery.

"We were able to control her inflammation to the point that she started gaining weight, her iron levels improved – and now she’s very healthy, active and energetic," says Victor Piñeiro, MD, the medical specialty director for the Levine Children’s pediatric and hepatology division.

Carley continues to be grateful for the care she received at Levine Children’s Hospital, home to the largest gastroenterology group in the Carolinas. And she’s especially grateful for her care team and Dr. Piñeiro, who she says always talks to her about everything and works to get the best treatment for her. "I was just so happy that we found him as a doctor," she says.

Back and feeling great

Since her diagnosis and treatment, the Carley Keller everyone knows and loves is back – back to school full-time, back to cheerleading and back to being herself.

"I feel great! I think that I’m hopefully in remission and that I can do all the things I used to do, that I couldn’t do for a little bit," she says. "I’m very happy with how I’m doing."

Ulcerative colitis couldn’t stop Carley – who still got straight A’s in school through it all. And now that she’s feeling better, there’s nothing standing in her way. She hopes to one day go to Clemson University and become a dermatologist.

But first, she’s going to get her driver’s license.