Esten Maxwell is really into pirates and zombies.
“He’ll probably ask if you’re a zombie if he gets you on the phone,” says his mother, Melanie Girard. “He had been really into trains until a little while ago. That was a good thing, though. When we were in the hospital, you could make his day if you brought him a train.”
In October 2006, Melanie spotted a rash on Esten’s neck. She recognized it as petechiae, blood blisters beneath the skin.
They went to the walk-in clinic at Chapel Hill Childrens Clinic , where tests later revealed leukemia. Esten had to be admitted immediately. He would need to endure three and a half years of spinal taps, chemotherapy, and steroid pulses.
“I felt like we were dropped into a play and everyone knew their parts but us,” Melanie says. “But the care was incredible. Dr. Gold; his name says it all. He is truly a saint. He is completely dedicated, a real calming spirit who doesn’t freak you out. And the kids love him.”
“Really, everybody who works in that clinic is stellar. I never—honestly—never had a bad experience at UNC. They’re just incredible.”
On Valentine’s Day, Esten’s arduous three and a half years of treatment will end. “He’s been such a trooper,” Melanie says.
She might not get him a toy zombie or pirate, but she and Esten’s dad will definitely give him lots of hugs, just like every other day.