Levi DePasquale loves all things baseball. So after bravely battling leukemia, this courageous seven-year-old will be honored at the Charlotte Knights BB&T Ballpark stadium as he rounds the bases in his Home Run for Life.

News, Child Health | one year ago

Levi Won't Let Leukemia Stop Him from Running the Field

Levi DePasquale loves all things baseball. So after bravely battling leukemia, this courageous then-seven-year-old was honored at the Charlotte Knights Truist Field as he rounded the bases in his Home Run for Life. 

[Editor's note: The above footage was filmed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic]

Between eating mac and cheese hot dogs, watching the closing display of fireworks and cheering on the Charlotte Knights at the Truist Field in uptown Charlotte, fans who were watching all of the action two years ago were given the special opportunity to honor and celebrate some of our rockstar pediatric patients from Levine Children’s Hospital at a select number of games.

On August 15, 2019, it was Levi DePasquale’s time to shine in his Home Run for Life where his story was shared with the local baseball community. Just like the ballplayers this young baseball fan admires, Levi got to proudly run the bases and high-five members of the Charlotte Knights and the opposing team.

It's a special event for any young fighter — and the honor was well-deserved after Levi’s courageous battle with leukemia.

Taking leukemia head-on

Ask anyone and they’ll tell you Levi is a fun-loving kid. He loves baseball, the military, video games, and he dreams of one day joining the Army or playing professional baseball.

But at the start of the 2018 school year, Levi’s parents realized their typically energetic little boy was more sleepy than usual. To make matters worse, he was running low-grade fevers, felt pain in his bones, and had a swollen lymph node. His mother Kayla, a nurse at Atrium Health Cabarrus, had seen these symptoms before and knew it was time to go to the doctor to figure out what was wrong.

Levi’s pediatrician at Atrium Health Levine Children’s Stanly Pediatric Services ran a blood test and found that Levi’s blood counts were low. Concerned, they transferred him to Atrium Health’s Levine Children’s Hospital, where Levi had more blood work and a bone marrow aspiration. On October 3, 2018, the results came back: Levi had B-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL).

“Leukemia starts in the bone marrow,” explains Ashley Hinson, MD, a pediatric hematologist and oncologist at Levine Children’s Hospital who serves as Levi’s primary oncologist. “The bone marrow is the bloody stuff inside the bones where blood cells grow. With leukemia, the infection-fighting white blood cells grow and divide irregularly, which expands the bone marrow and causes the bone pain Levi was experiencing.”

ALL affects more children than adults and is the most common cancer among children. So as he began his treatment, Levi joined the 20 to 25 children who are treated for ALL at Levine Children’s Hospital each year - one of the largest groups of pediatric patients in the region.

A network of support

“We knew Levi was strong and could fight this disease,” says Levi’s dad, Jason. And fight he did, with chemotherapy starting right away for Levi. After some heavy doses of chemo in the first few weeks, Levi had surgery to insert a port. This port would enable him to go home and receive chemo twice a week intravenously.

At Levine Children’s Hospital, each child with ALL is placed in a risk group depending on the severity of their condition. This ensures they get just the right care based on their unique case of the disease. For Levi, this means he’ll get about 3.5 years of chemotherapy.

Fortunately, Levi is far into treatment and responding very well. “He’s in remission and doing great,” says Dr. Hinson.

But while Levi has responded well to treatment, chemotherapy is a lot to go through for any child. That’s why Levine Children’s Hospital places such a premium on supportive care for their patients. There’s a child psychologist and social work presence in the clinic to help young children like Levi navigate the tough feelings that come up while battling cancer.

“There are nurses here that Levi just loves,” says Dr. Hinson. “We’ve really tried to make the hospital feel like a home for Levi during all his visits.” In particular, he’s struck up a close relationship with his nurse, Jon Wheeler, RN, who has been known to let Levi chase him around the oncology clinic with saline syringe “water guns” to add some fun to his visits.

“The whole team at Levine Children’s is amazing, absolutely amazing,” says Jason.

A night of #LEVISTRONG

After getting diagnosed, one of Levi’s toughest setbacks was having to quit baseball. But only a few years after the initial diagnosis, and with “no evidence of disease,” Levi was cleared to play his favorite sport as long as he wears a guard over his port.

“If you mention anything about baseball, Levi is all about it,” says Jason. So it’s no wonder he was “crazy excited” for his moment in the spotlight at Home Run for Life.

The event was a family affair, where Levi’s parents, grandparents, three siblings, and uncle will get to cheer on their little guy who’s been through so much.

“Levi has been so tough and strong through everything,” says Kayla. And on August 15, 2019, the Charlotte community got to see just how #LEVISTRONG Levi DePasquale really is.