Courage for Connor

Connor is a lovable, honest, curious little boy. He just finished third grade in Missouri Valley, Iowa. Connor has an amazing memory and can tell you anything you care to know (or not!) about snakes and other interesting and creepy living creatures. He is patient and creative, likes exploring and visiting the Omaha Zoo, is a faithful Cub Scout and member of his church in Missouri Valley, and has always loved superheroes and action movies. He is a Star Wars expert and also loves books. Connor is loved by many as an awesome son, an amazing big brother to his little sister Aubrey, a grandson, nephew, a cousin and a friend.

A few weeks ago Connor (age 9) went to the doctor with some enlarged lymph nodes. An ear infection was suspected and he was given antibiotics. The swelling of the lymph nodes did not subside with the antibiotics so he returned to a specialist in Omaha on Wednesday, where he underwent a CT scan and other tests. Connor then went to the circus with his family in Omaha Wednesday evening. As they were leaving at the end of the circus, the doctor called Connor's parents, Theresa and Dirk, and asked them to bring him to the emergency room at University of Nebraska Medical Center right away. Signs were pointing to something significant going on in Connor's little body, and the doctor said test results were showing that his kidneys could be shutting down. Naturally, this is the news no parent wants to hear. God was at work, though, making sure the Dowling family was in Omaha Wednesday night rather than at home in Missouri Valley. They swiftly made their way to the hospital while the whole family prayed in the car, with little Aubrey praying for red lights to turn green. As they did, Aubrey commented that God was hearing her prayers!
Doctors and staff at UNMC worked quickly to give Connor blood transfusions (four to be exact). Through the night Connor went through various tests so doctors could determine what they were dealing with. Theresa and Dirk were rightfully worried but assured by the power of prayer that surrounded them, as well as the reassuring skill of all the doctors, nurses, and staff at UNMC.

Connor had a bone marrow biopsy and a spinal tap the following morning. Without going into lots of medical detail, it was determined that Connor's white blood cells were exploding and working overtime. His hemoglobin was very low and forcing the kidneys to work much harder than they were able. The ultimate diagnosis is acute lymphocytic leukemia.

Connor has already started chemo treatments and will undergo major chemo treatment for 28 days, with six months treatment at home (probably home schooling some in the fall to protect his compromised immune system), and three years total treatment. He will be at UNMC for the next 7 to 10 days.

Connor is in good spirits and was already trying to chase dogs down the hospital hallway today post-spinal tap! He was making cute iPhone videos for his cousins with a monitor on his finger saying, "E.T. phone home!", offered up his DVD of the movie over the phone so the cousins could refresh their memory of E.T., and was cheerfully reporting on the many good food selections at the hospital.

Theresa says the doctors have been phenomenal in explaining everything in layman's terms (or 9-year-old boy terms!) and Theresa and Dirk are feeling a greater sense of peace compared to the shock and panic of last night. Connor will be getting a picc line for his continued chemo and he's actually not feeling so bad about losing his hair and getting to wear a variety of hats! Of course, no one has slept much, but grandparents are there for support and caring for Aubrey.

Through the emotional roller coaster of the last days, one thing remains clear. God is at work. God will support Connor and all the Dowlings, and they need and feel everyone's support and prayers. Connor's life is a special gift and that life is in the best of hands between God's loving care and all the medical professionals at UNMC.


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