ST. LOUIS - When asked about his favorite place in St. Louis, 15-year-old patient Alex Gabriele Mercedes said Busch Stadium. However, that’s pretty much the only place outside a hospital he’s had time to visit. Alex traveled to St. Louis from the Dominican Republic to receive specialized care for osteosarcoma, a bone tumor that developed in his left femur.
Mercy Cardinals Kids Cancer Center oncologist Robin Hanson, MD, and his wife, pediatrician Janet Mueller, MD, have worked with the Pujols Family Foundation to develop a new program called Unbroken. The goal is to identify and treat children from the Dominican Republic who need lifesaving medical intervention not available to them in their country.
Alex’s cancer was diagnosed after he bumped his leg on a desk at school. When the swelling didn’t go down, his parents took him to the doctor in their hometown.
“When I first got the news, I didn’t process it,” Alex said, through a translator. “I always convinced myself I was well.”
After five rounds of chemotherapy and surgery to remove the tumor in his country, the tumor grew back and spread to his lung. That’s when he met the team from Unbroken and efforts began to bring him to the U.S. for care.
With the help of Mercy Health Foundation and numerous physicians who are donating their time to care for Alex, he’s getting the specialized care he needs.
“Care is so much better here,” said Maria Mercedes de Gabriele, Alex’s mom. “There’s less medicine over there [Dominican Republic] and not much money in the medical industry to provide what Alex needed. Here they have everything.”
Alex’s care has been coordinated with doctors across the St. Louis area. In early March, he had surgery to remove the tumor while avoiding amputation of his leg. After surgery, he began a three- month course of chemo at Cardinals Kids Cancer Center and physical therapy at Ranken Jordan.
“A complete removal of the primary tumor in his leg was achieved,” Dr. Hanson said. “With aggressive chemotherapy, which he was unable to receive in the Dominican Republic, along with further surgery to remove tumor from his lung, we believe he has an excellent chance for survival and cure.”
During his time in St. Louis, Alex has been staying at the Ronald McDonald House on the Mercy campus.