On March 8th 2016, varsity athlete and Fontainebleau softball phenom Megan Penny hit the game winning home run to clinch her team’s first district game. Shortly after the victory, she started experiencing fatigue, nausea, and dizziness – symptoms that led her to uncharacteristically miss the team’s away game in Lafayette, LA the next day.
After two days of not feeling like herself, Megan’s mom Jennifer made the decision to bring her to their local pediatrician. When it was discovered at St. Tammany Parish Hospital that her white blood cell count had skyrocketed to 280,000 Megan was immediately transferred to Ochsner Hospital for Children. There she was brought under the care of Dr. Robert Vasquez, where her cancer was confirmed.
As a highly talented high school athlete who was already beginning to attract the notice of college recruiters, the diagnosis came as a shock to Megan, her family, and her softball teammates. However, despite the initial impact of the news, her spirits remained strong. When Megan was told that her chemo treatment would cause her to lose her hair, she and her close friend and teammate Carra spontaneously decided to cut, and then shave, their heads in her hospital room.
Over the course of her treatment, Megan experienced several medical complications including allergies to her antibiotics, and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome - otherwise known as hypermobility of the joints. Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome affects connective tissue in the skin, joints, and blood vessel walls, and symptoms include the ability to extend joints easily and painlessly beyond the normal range of motion, as well as an impaired ability for the body to properly heal open wounds.
Throughout her diagnosis and treatment, Megan’s family and friends have reiterated her strength, determination, and overall resilience in the face of a game-changing illness. They note that often Megan has been their support system, encouraging her loved ones to stay positive throughout even the most challenging moments of her care.
As a lifelong Saints fan, Megan's one wish during her treatment was to attend a Saints game. On September 13th, her family, friends, and Ochsner Hospital for Children caretaking team amazed her with a complete surprise party at Ochsner Medical Center – Jefferson Hwy. The occasion included a special guest appearance from New Orleans Saints running back Tim Hightower, who presented Megan with tickets and field passes to an upcoming game as well as a custom jersey featuring her lucky softball number - #18.
Adding an emotional note to the day, Megan’s beloved uncle was also on-hand to participate in the surprise. Her self-identified “best friend”, “Bubba” as he’s known within the family had not been able to see or visit Megan since before her diagnosis, flying all the way from Utah to make the occasion even more meaningful.
Follow along with other amazing pediatric patient stories on the Ochsner Hospital for Children Facebook page.