For 14-year-old Sophie Ysursa, the summer of 2022 was a busy one. Not only was she competing on her swim team, she was participating in volleyball clinics and playing soccer—not to mention attending summer camp and visiting Six Flags with her family. When her left arm began to hurt, her mom, Jessica, initially thought it was a sign to slow down a little. “Sophie would take a week off, but when she’d go back to swim or play volleyball, her arm would hurt again,” Jessica notes. “It was like a cycle of pain. At the beginning of August, we took her to visit Dr. Robert Medler at Signature Orthopedics.” After performing an X-ray, Medler noticed what he believed to be a tumor, so he reached out to SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital, and within two days, Sophie was being evaluated at the hospital.
Following a biopsy and PET scan, Sophie was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, an aggressive type of bone cancer. It’s a prospect that no parent wants to consider, but Jessica notes that SSM Health Cardinal Glennon helped the family navigate the difficult and uncertain journey of cancer treatment. “It was devastating news—I was shell shocked,” Jessica says. “It was difficult to process everything that was happening, but everyone did a great job at guiding us through every step. We basically lived at the hospital, and the doctors, nurses and staff gave us a lot of personal attention, making Sophie’s care very one-on-one.”
Working with Sophie’s oncologist, SLUCare physician Dr. Lauren Draper, the family was ready to begin treatment, which included three months of initial chemotherapy, surgery and another six months of chemo. It’s a daunting prospect for anyone to undertake, let alone someone as young as Sophie, but she says the staff at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon, especially the pediatric oncology nurses, helped relieve her anxiety every time she received treatment. “The nurses are the best people in the world,” she notes. Jessica adds, “They helped us through our darkest times and acted like big sisters to Sophie. They’ll always have a special place in our hearts.”
When Sophie’s treatment necessitated staying at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon, she often had quite a bit of downtime. “We could be in the hospital five or six days a week,” Jessica says. “If Sophie wasn’t feeling too sick, she was bored.” One of Sophie’s favorite ways to occupy her time was visiting with the hospital’s facility dog, Thor from Duo Dogs. She also enjoyed taking advantage of the programming and services offered by the hospital’s child life specialists. The department focuses on meeting the psychosocial, developmental, emotional and educational needs of all patients and families through programs, including art and music therapy. “I enjoyed working with Bree, the art therapist—she was always smiling and cracking jokes,” Sophie notes. “Child life services are very important because they help make the hospital feel more homey for the kids who have to stay there.”
Programming like child life services is possible thanks in part to community support and innovative fundraisers. One of the hospital’s major initiatives is Glennon Card, a discount shopping program that allows St. Louisans to directly support its young patients. Each fall, the purchase of a $60 card unlocks a 20% discount at hundreds of retailers, eateries and attractions, and 100% of card sales benefit SSM Health Cardinal Glennon. The program is organized by the hospital’s foundation and the Glennon Guild, a women’s auxiliary that supports the hospital.
This year’s shopping period is Oct. 13 to 22, and more than 340 businesses are participating. Among them is MOD on Trend, a family-owned boutique with six locations in Missouri and Illinois—all of which are part of the Glennon Card program. “It’s a great way to raise money and bring awareness to SSM Health Cardinal Glennon,” owner Tania Rankel says. “Glennon Card brings the community together, and it helps support local businesses by promoting early holiday shopping. We always see new customers visit our stores during the event, and they get the opportunity to save money while supporting an amazing cause.”
For Jessica, the Glennon Card is an excellent example of the difference that community support can make. Living in Illinois, she was not aware of the program until Sophie needed SSM Health Cardinal Glennon’s services, but she’s grateful that they now can help promote the initiative. “We’re happy to do our part to spread the news to help other kids—it’s a positive inside of a negative,” she notes. “It’s amazing to know that all of these people are willing to be champions for patients like Sophie. I hope everyone can buy a card and support the families at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon.”
Purchase a Glennon Card for 10 days of savings at local retailers, eateries and attractions Oct. 13 to 22 while supporting SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital. Pictured on the cover: Glennon kid Sophie at MOD on Trend in Kirkwood. Look for more coverage of the program in the Oct. 18 issue of T&S, and visit glennoncard.org for additional information.
Cover design by Julie Streiler
Cover photo by Colin Miller of Strauss Peyton Photography
Pictured at top: Glennon kid Sophie
Photos courtesy of SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital