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The Heart of a Hero

Reese Crump, Age 4
March 2013

Born with Down syndrome and recently diagnosed with leukemia, 4-year-old Reece Crump inspires his family with his inner strength and passion for life.

ElAnn Poe, 24, always knew her cousin Reece was an amazing little boy.

"He had me from the get-go," she said. "He was a perfect little baby, with beautiful, bright blue eyes. We had a special connection from the start."

Reece was born with Down syndrome, but otherwise he was perfectly healthy, and his childhood proceeded like that of any other child. That all changed last summer, when his parents, Tim and Leslie Crump, sensed something was wrong. Reece had been acting tired, and just didn't seem like himself.

Reece was being followed by Luis F. Escobar, Medical Director of the Down Syndrome Clinic at Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St.Vincent. When Reece's blood tests showed abnormal results, he was referred to the care of Dr. Bassem Razzouk, pediatric oncologist at Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St.Vincent. On August 24, Reece was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

A Fighter's Spirit

Nothing could have prepared Reece's family for the stunning news. "We were just zombies for a few days," ElAnn said. "We were in denial."

But it didn't take long for Reece's family to realize that Reece was an extraordinary fighter. ElAnn was so impressed by his fighting spirit that she created a Facebook page to document his recovery. The main photo on the page shows Reece standing outside on a sunny day, looking off into the distance. A red superhero cape blows in the wind behind him.

"It's more than just a cute picture," ElAnn explained. "Reece really is a hero in my eyes." So when Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St.Vincent announced its Indy's Child Parenting Magazine Who's Your Hero video contest, ElAnn knew she had to enter.

"It wasn't about winning," she said. "It was about sharing Reece's story with as many people as possible."

A Winning Pair

Watching ElAnn's video (watch it at KidsHealthLine.com/superhero), you get a deeper understanding of just how strong the bond is between her and Reece. And though her personal life keeps her busy—she's both an RN and a graduate student at Indiana State University—ElAnn still finds time to visit Reece regularly.

"We have such a good time together," she said. "We take funny pictures of ourselves with the iPhone, we play dinosaurs—we just enjoy each other's company."

While Reece has remained strong throughout chemotherapy, it has been tough at times. Because he has Down syndrome, he is more susceptible to infections and other complications. Fortunately, the multidisciplinary team at Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St.Vincent is following a special protocol to optimize his well-being during treatment.

The road ahead won't be easy for Reece, but his future looks hopeful. His cancer is in remission, and he only has one phase of intensive chemotherapy remaining before beginning a much easier maintenance chemo regimen. "His leukemia is under control," Dr. Razzouk said. "His chances for survival and cure five years out is around 80 percent."

"It's been an emotional rollercoaster," ElAnn said. "But the medical team has done a great job. Reece used to be so scared of treatment, but now he walks around the hospital like he owns the place. He's such a fighter."

"Reece has been through more at the age of 4 than most people face in their entire lives," ElAnn continued. "He has taught us so much. I hope other people get to hear his story, because I think everyone can learn from him."

Tags: In This Issue, Local

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