Brave baby Quinn fights leukemia as family rallies around her

Photography by Greg Lovett

Nominated by Kids Cancer Foundation

Quinn McBride, a sunny and determined soul, has battled leukemia for most of her life. She’s 15 months old.

It was her mother who suspected there was something seriously wrong with the baby when supposed mosquito bites would not heal. At first, doctors thought Quinn had a relatively harmless virus known as CMV, but her mother, Lisa Harris, would not accept the diagnosis — not when the infant’s condition worsened and lingered for months.

At the time, Harris worked long shifts as a hospital scrub tech. Having moved out of her childhood home at age 21, she had carved out an independent life, working two jobs to put herself through school. She was a single mother, intent on providing for her baby. But financial survival was the furthest thing from her mind as she traced the purplish blotches covering Quinn’s legs.

Harris, now 29, recalls the desperation: “I’m thinking, ‘My baby’s sick and no one knows what’s wrong with her.’”

It was after Harris took the baby to a dermatologist and requested a biopsy that she got the stunning news: Quinn had infantile leukemia. She was just 7 months old.

For the next two months, mother and child would live at the hospital where Quinn underwent aggressive chemotherapy treatments. The chemo made a mess of the baby’s immune system, leaving her in a state so fragile that a dim new normal set in. Harris lives in a state of constant guard:

“If she gets a fever, she could die in three hours,” she says of her daughter.

There would be no outings, no play dates, and very few (if any) visitors.

Lisa comforts her daughter.
Lisa comforts her daughter.

Then came a rigorous new feeding schedule — small amounts of formula poured into Quinn’s belly via a feeding tube every couple of hours.

This is how it must be for the next few years, a baby’s life punctuated by intense monthly chemo sessions.

Harris has surrendered to the delicate routine of tending to her baby day and night. To care for Quinn full time, she had to leave her job in February and return to her parents’ home in Lantana, where she and the baby sleep in her old bedroom. She now relies on them for all the baby’s necessities: diapers, formula, clothes, toys. Fortunately, Medicaid covers Quinn’s medical costs.

The young mother is also frustrated that she’s unable to contribute to her child’s material needs. She does not want to be a strain on the household, considering her parents work hard to stay afloat. (Her father operates a tree-trimming service and her mother does secretarial work.)

But all of that is manageable. What is much harder is keeping her daughter strong enough to endure the treatments. This means daily booster shots, calculated feedings and maintaining a bubble-like environment.

Here was the baby that had come so easily after less than two hours of labor. Quinn entered the world as a 7-pound, 14-ounce infant on Aug. 27, 2017. She was perfect.

Now, some days Harris feels like she’s stuck in sand, unable to ease her daughter along to the expected milestones of childhood.

“I just want her to start crawling. I want her to start walking. I want her to start talking. But she’s on the strongest chemo. It’s going to delay her.”

QUINN’S WISH

Quinn McBride, a sunny and determined soul, has battled leukemia for most of her life. She’s 15 months old. For the next few years, the baby must undergo aggressive, in-hospital chemotherapy treatments that make a mess of her immune system. Her single mother had to quit her job as a hospital scrub tech and move back to her parents’ home to care for Quinn round-the-clock. The family could use help in paying for basic expenses: diapers, food, baby goods, car and gas bills.

Nominated by: Kids Cancer Foundation, Royal Palm Beach, 561-371-1298

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