When Ella was 2 1/2 years old, she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoblastic lymphoma, a disease in which tumors develop from white blood cells known as lymphocytes. A joyful little girl with a twin sister, Ella soon found herself lost in a maze of tests, treatments and hospitalizations. One tumor mass was so large it even displaced her heart. After numerous treatments, though, Ella is grateful to have been in remission for five years.
Ella is still dealing with the aftereffects of chemotherapy, including bone issues and migraines. It was in pursuing treatment for pain in her ankles that she first encountered The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio.
“She’s a competitive cheerleader, and that’s how she realized she was having problems with her ankles,” explains Ella’s father, Bill Behnke. “Her orthopedist, Elizabeth Magnabosco, M.D., is affiliated with The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, and has done an amazing job staying on top of Ella’s ongoing ankle issues.”
“I had too much bone in my ankles, so I had surgery in both my ankles, at different times, to remove excess bone,” Ella says. The Hospital impressed her with the attractiveness of the facility and the kindness of the outpatient surgical staff. Ella’s mother, Debbie Behnke, was also touched by her daughter’s treatment.
“The day of surgery, as the staff familiarized us with what to expect, we were impressed with the brand new operating room, with the latest technology and equipment,” Debbie says. “I was further touched that during the procedure, her anesthesiologist French-braided her hair — it was so sweet. “When Ella woke up, she had a beautiful French braid. It was a surprise for her, and showed the staff really goes above and beyond.”
Ripples of Support
Ella’s generous spirit drives her to make a difference in other children’s lives, raising funds for cancer research through the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. While this brave young girl gives back, The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio is proud to stand beside her. The Hospital has offered support, and President, Elias J. Neujahr is proudly serving as the Walk Chair for Light the Night, one of the largest fundraisers for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
“One thing that cancer has taught me is that it is okay to ask for help,” Ella says. “And it feels really good to be able to help others.”