Starlight Programs Boost Kenny’s Resilience Throughout Childhood Cancer Journey

Meet Kenny

Like many kids his age, 16-year-old Kenny loves math, volleyball, reading and all things concerning space travel. Unlike many kids his age, Kenny had to stay in the hospital for 18 months straight.  

After becoming ill at science camp, Kenny was diagnosed with leukemia at 10 years old. Leukemia began a long, arduous journey with childhood cancer for Kenny and his family.  

Close to his 14th birthday, Kenny was responding well to his leukemia treatment when he suddenly began to relapse. The doctors at Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC) performed a bone marrow transplant with Kenny’s father, Daniel, as the donor.  

Not long after his transplant, Kenny spent eight months in the pediatric intensive care unit and was in a medically induced coma for one of them. An almost fatal fungal infection that began in his lungs invaded his vertebrae, causing his spine to almost collapse. Another viral lung infection worsened Kenny’s condition. Surgeons removed a portion of his right lung that the infection had destroyed and reconstructed three vertebrates with a titanium rod and screws.

As first seen on the CHOC Blog

Post-surgery, Kenny’s road to recovery was immensely taxing. He was on full support of the ventilator and pain medications – he could not stand or walk. Nerve damage in his legs and feet made everyday tasks like putting on socks extremely painful. 

Starlight programs help kids like Kenny build resilience to endure long hospital stays and difficult treatments and procedures. Starlight Nintendo Switch Gaming Station allows children to reduce boredom and anxiety by redirecting their focus on something fun and familiar from their home life. Starlight Virtual Reality also supports kids by helping them relax during activities such as painful sock changes. In these ways, the Starlight gaming station and VR headset support hospitalized kids’ mental health and well-being. 

As first seen on the CHOC blog

Kenny, now an 11th grader at Tustin High School, is cancer-free and can walk short distances. He still takes nerve pain medication for his legs and wears braces to shape his legs and feet into normal positions after months of atrophy. 

But the 11th grader’s focus is on his dreams ahead. His next goal is to get his driver’s license, and eventually, to attend college. “I want to be an aerospace engineer,” Kenny says.

As first seen on the CHOC blog

Starlight exists to make hospital stays an easier place to be for kids and families like Kenny’s. With programs that bring happiness, children build resilience for surgeries and post-surgery recovery. That way, kids can continue to look beyond and keep dreaming.  

“[Starlight programs] bring hope and makes us remember we're not alone.” - Shendi, Kenny’s mom

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