The Many Faces of Emma: Patient, Cover Girl, RN
It makes me so happy and so thankful to wake up in the morning and go to work, and have the opportunity to touch people the way I was touched so many years ago.Emma Furlone, RN
Little Girl Emma
“Emma was my first child, a special kid from the moment she was born; everybody was always so sweet on her,” says Emma’s mother Beth Furlone. “She just really always touched people’s hearts.”
Like many little girls, Emma knew what she wanted to be when she grew up: a nurse. That dream began when she was just three years old. At that age, her mother recalls, Emma had her share of trips and falls like most children, but one time was different. “She twisted her leg and started having pain so the doctors thought she might have had a fracture,” Beth remembers. But then Emma spiked a fever. After blood tests were done at the local hospital, she was referred to a blood specialist—a hematologist at the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock (CHaD). “When we walked in I see we’re headed toward Oncology,” says Beth, “And I’m like, ‘What’s Oncology?’” Then in the office I saw all of these things about cancer. I was shaking in my boots. We weren’t there five minutes when a nurse came out, introduced herself to me and got down on her knees and introduced herself to Emma. They knew we were coming and immediately we felt welcomed.”
After additional testing and, eventually, a needle biopsy on her hip, Emma was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
“Dr. [Sara] Chafee was wonderful, sitting down and teaching everyone what was going on and what the plan would be,” says Beth. “She told us that Emma had pre-B cell leukemia, which meant she was low risk.” Not only was that good news in a difficult situation, but Emma’s experience during her illness would set her on a path toward her future.
Cover Girl Emma
For six months, Emma would go through an aggressive treatment of chemotherapy and regular blood tests. Her chemotherapy sessions would taper off, but still continue for another two years. “Throughout everything she was dealing with, Emma would hop and skip right through it,” says Beth. “She would feel carsick, throw up, wipe her mouth and say, ‘Okay, I want a snack.’ She even named the IV tube that hung from her chest “Lucy Line.” Every time we went to CHaD for treatment the doctors and nurses went along with it and would say, ‘Now, we have to connect Lucy.’ Emma still has it in her baby book.”
“I don’t remember any of the medical things, being sick or the pain,” says Emma, “but what I do remember was the fun I had and the relationships I experienced.”
One of those fun times Emma remembers was at the Big Apple Circus, an annual fundraising event for CHaD. “We were at the circus with all of the doctors and nurses, and we had a big celebration because I had just finished my last chemo treatment. I remember being picked up and someone taking a picture.”
That photo appeared on the cover of the first edition of CHaD Matters. Emma would grace the cover on two more editions –10 years after the first and for the final print edition in 2015.
After finishing chemo, and well on the road to recovery, Emma says, “My mom wanted me to do something social, to be outside and playing with other children. She got me on a soccer team, after begging them to let me play because I was a year younger than allowed. But soccer was kind of a stepping off point for my early childhood, and into a healthy life.”
Beth says, “I would miss the game because I was just watching her legs and remembering where it all started with pain in her legs.”
Fast forward and Emma is now a healthy and happy 22-year-old young woman, with two healthy and supportive younger siblings, Anna, 18 and Joseph, 16. Recently graduated from St. Anselm College in Manchester, NH, Emma completed her nursing practicum at Dartmouth-Hitchcock (D-H). In June of 2014 she passed her boards, and is now “a full-fledged registered nurse” looking forward to continuing her work at D-H. For a long time, Emma says, she wanted to be a doctor because of the close relationships she had developed with them, but, when she looked back, she realized “that some of my closest relationships were with the nurses who took care of me, and I wanted to be that person to someone one day. Here I am, how many years after treatment, and I’m still inspired to impact someone that way. My deciding to become a nurse was directly due to the care I received at CHaD and the relationships I built there.”
“I can’t say enough good stuff about CHaD—the staff and everybody there,” says Beth. “It was strange to have a hospital that size where the doctor and the staff actually took the time to get to know us. They treated everyone as a family, and not just the patient. As a mother with a sick child, I was scared a lot. I think Emma knew how much I needed the nurses and how they were there for me. She always said she wanted to work at the hospital; now she’s living her dream and I love that she’s a nurse. She is so compassionate. I think this is what she’s meant to do and where she’s meant to be.”
Now, on those legs where it all began, Emma says she is looking forward to taking the next healthy step into her future. “I think that with everything my family and I have gone through—and there have certainly been other obstacles in my life aside from cancer—the biggest thing I’ve learned, starting with my experiences at CHaD, is that no matter how dark things may seem, there is always so much light. To be able to come full circle, to work at this wonderful facility that sparked my interest in caring for people… it makes me emotional. It makes me so happy and so thankful to wake up in the morning and go to work, and have the opportunity to touch people the way I was touched so many years ago. “