NewsLocal NewsIn Your NeighborhoodGreen Bay


5-year-old cancer patient uplifted by child life specialists, teen patient inspired

A local family is finding more relief in their son receiving cancer treatment thanks to an occupation they feel does not get talked about enough.
Posted at 7:04 PM, Mar 27, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-27 20:04:54-04

GREEN BAY (NBC26) — A Neenah family is finding a little more peace of mind amidst their 5-year-old son having cancer. That's a result of the help they received from child life specialists at HSHS St. Vincent Hospital in Green Bay. Their impact inspiring the next generation to pursue a career in Child Life.

  • Video shows child life Specialists at HSHS St. Vincent Hospital in Green Bay serving to keep a 5-year-old cancer patient busy with fun activities and giving his parents better peace of mind.
  • HSHS St. Vincent Hospital has child life specialists who assist patients and their families through the medical treatment process, health experiences
  • Local teen cancer patient says she plans to pursue a career as a child life specialist.

(The following is a transcription of the full broadcast story)

"The world kinda got turned upside down for us," Devan Kuether said.

In 2022, Becky, his wife, and Devan's son Finley got sick with an ear infection and then experienced pain in his foot.

Becky says a doctor later described test results as worrisome.

"What is worrisome, like what are we looking at here, just tell me," Becky said. "That is when he said we're basically looking to rule out leukemia."

Later that diagnosis came.

"Awful, absolutely awful," Becky said.

The parents drove from their home in Neenah to HSHS St. Vincent Hospital in Green Bay.

They say from the moment they arrived, the family felt the love of the child life specialists.

"They flooded him with toys and anything he wanted and this became our home for a week," Devan said.

Child life specialists help patients and their families cope with a variety of health experiences and help kids be kids as they push through treatment.

Ashley Thompson is the Child Life supervisor at the hospital.

"The unknown is scary and we're there to help so they don't feel so scared," Thompson said. "We will be there to teach them. We will be there to walk with them."

Their work is inspiring Jahanlis Reyes, a high school senior and cancer patient.

"She's like my girl here," Reyes said about Thompson.

Jahnalis is battling Stage 3 T-Cell lymphoblastic lymphoma.

The diagnosis not stopping her plans to attend UW-Stevens Point.

"I'm going to be majoring in family consumer science in hopes of being a child life specialist actually," Reyes said. "They have someone that's been through it and understands what they're going through."

The Kuethers say, Emerson, Finley's twin sister, has the same interest.

"She wants to be a child life specialist growing up or a nurse," Becky said.

"They have something that just connects them," Devan said. "Watching (Finley and Emerson) stare at each other through a glass door, as a parent, I can't really talk about it. It shattered me at that moment."

While I was speaking with Thompson, she got called to help Finley. The video shows a specialist telling Thompson that Finley is ready to go to the claw machine.

A fun moment for his parents and for Finley who scored a lucky grab — Winning a teddy bear.

The Kuether family said that support and awareness for childhood cancer is an all-year-round thing.

This summer they plan on having a lemonade stand in their neighborhood to raise for cancer research.