One in a Million: Levine Children’s Brenner Children’s Hospital Helps Jada Love Beat the Odds - Again

One in a Million: Levine Children’s Brenner Children’s Hospital Helps Jada Love Beat the Odds - Again.Beating the odds is nothing new for 15-year-old Jada Love.

She was born with achondroplasia, the most common type of short-limbed dwarfism, and spent much of her first year and a half in a hospital. Her parents, Keith and Mary Love of High Point, NC, were told it would be years before she might walk and to expect her to stay on a feeding tube until she was in her 20s. But Jada was off the tube and walking before her second birthday.

“We call her our miracle baby,” Mary says.

So, when Jada received a rare diagnosis of osteosarcoma in her leg in early 2023, it gave her another opportunity to beat the odds - with the help of specialists at Atrium Health Levine Children’s Brenner Children’s Hospital in Winston-Salem, NC.

“Jada is a unique young woman,” says Dr. Cynthia Emory, an orthopaedic oncology surgeon at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist and chair of orthopaedic surgery and rehabilitation at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, who led Jada’s surgical care at Brenner Children’s Hospital. “Based on Jada and her unique of her conditions, she literally is one in a million.”

A Persistent Pain

There was nothing remarkable, though, about the leg pain Jada felt in the first few weeks of 2023, except that it was persistent. What she and her family thought was a sprain simply wouldn’t heal.

Jada’s primary care doctor first prescribed rest and later, when the pain remained, took an X-ray. The scan showed a suspicious spot in her leg, and the doctor referred the family to Dr. Thomas McLean, who specializes in pediatric cancer and blood disorders at Brenner Children’s Hospital.

McLean coordinated with Emory, who performed the biopsy that produced the diagnosis: osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer that most often affects children, adolescents and young adults. It is rare, with approximately 800 new cases reported nationally each year and only about 400 of those cases involving children and teens.

“I think the biggest relief for me was after she was diagnosed, I was thinking, ‘What stage is this at?’” says Keith. “The doctor said, ‘This is curable, this is fixable.’ That was a huge relief.”

Jada’s care began with chemotherapy treatments that required stays at Brenner Children’s Hospital for two to five days. After going home for a couple of days, she would head back for the next round of chemo.

“On our first night there, the nurses came in and said, ‘Mom, we are here and we’re going to take care of her,’” Mary says. “Every day, they came in with encouraging words and said they had been praying. The days got easier, and they made us feel like it was a home away from home for us.”

A One-in-a-million Device

One in a Million: Levine Children’s Brenner Children’s Hospital Helps Jada Love Beat the Odds - Again.The other part of her care involved a complex surgery. In addition to removing the tumor, the upper two-thirds of Jada’s tibia needed to be removed and replaced with a prosthesis. With no replacement prosthetic device on the market that would fit Jada’s small leg, Emory designed a custom prothesis, working with engineers at a custom oncology prosthetics and design company.

“Dr. Emory said, ‘I’m going to do all I can to save Jada’s leg,’ and she put 100% of her all into doing that,” Keith says. “She explained what she was going to do and said, ‘I promise you I will remove all of this cancer.’ And she did.”

It took from February to May to produce the device. Meanwhile, Jada continued chemotherapy treatments in the weeks leading up to her seven-hour surgery on May 18.

“It’s stressful going into an operation knowing that you only have one option for reconstruction and no back-up option other than amputation or a spacer until a new prosthesis can be designed,” Emory says. “But we knew this could be done.”

Jada’s surgery went very well, though, thanks to her team of surgeons. Recovery was painful and slow at times, and Jada resumed chemotherapy within a month of her surgery, but as Emory says, “she has a great attitude and is doing well!”

By November, the Loves had news to celebrate: Jada had completed her cancer treatments. She’ll have follow-up appointments in her future, but she’s free now to focus on things most teenagers enjoy, like taking driving lessons, getting through high school and planning out her future. Jada wants to study cosmetology so she can learn to do hair and nails. She’s also enjoying special occasions, like a surprise celebration by members of the Wake Forest University cheerleading squad, in conjunction with Atrium Health Levine Children’s, who made Jada an honorary cheerleader for a men’s basketball game.

“We are a faith-based family, and we just kept our faith in the Lord,” Keith says. “He put Brenner Children’s Hospital in our path. Without that, I don’t know how we would have gotten through this. The doctors and staff there are awesome. They did everything right and gave Jada the confidence to get through this like she was part of their family.”