A routine checkup. It was only supposed to be a routine checkup for Kathryn and Steve Tummino’s 4-month-old son Stefan in early January 2015. What came of it was something that they never could’ve foreseen.
“We were terrified,” Kathryn said. “To have someone tell us as new parents that our healthy looking 4-month-old baby had cancer— it was mind boggling.”
The Tummino family was shocked to learn Stefan had stage IV-S Neuroblastoma that had spread from his adrenal gland to his liver. The family’s physician, local doctor and Board of Health member Justin Kreuger, put the Tumminos in touch with a team of doctors at Nationwide Children’s Hospital to begin Stefan’s treatment.
Already struggling with the news, the Tumminos began to brace themselves for the oncoming medical costs, which were adding up to thousands of dollars. As a mother and father willing to do anything for their son, the Tumminos were ready to sacrifice everything for Stefan’s health.
Before financial burdens hit, the Tumminos were informed of Union County’s Children with Medical Handicaps Program (BCMH).
BCMH is a program that serves children with special health care needs and their families. Those needs include financial assistance for some medical expenses for families in distress.
“It’s for unexpected expenses when a child is diagnosed,” Union County Health Department Nurse Kim Prior said. “It keeps families intact so they’re not worried about financial burdens.”
After finding out about Stefan, Prior reached out to the Tumminos to let them know they qualified for financial assistance, and the Tumminos were able to start Stefan’s chemo treatments by March.
“Kim helped us understand the process,” Kathryn said. “She knew all the answers that we didn’t.”
The program isn’t just about finances, as Prior said she goes on home visits to affected families. These visits are to ensure families have to-go bags for emergency hospital visits, local emergency contact information, fire escape plans and more.
What’s even more encouraging about the program, said Prior, is since she started in 2011, the program has doubled its caseload, meaning more help for more families.
“It’s never about the program when we visit,” Prior said. “It’s about the family dynamic.”
After four rounds of chemotherapy, on a sunny day in June 2015, the family received the news that Stefan was finally cancer-free.
He remains just as healthy today.
“Looking at him, you’d never know he had cancer,” Kathryn said. “He’s an absolute ball of energy, and the picture of health” she added.
Kathryn said throughout Stefan’s treatment, she was thankful for the health department, friends and acquaintances in the community and Dr. Kreuger for all of the help and support they received.
“We are eternally grateful,” Kathryn said.
Though the program provides a wide range of support, Prior knows that for her, it’s all for one cause.
“I just want them to be focused on family.”