Ephrata parents get Christmas wish: 8-month-old daughter is cancer free

By on December 28, 2016
Sophia Wagner shows off her Christmas outfit after being discharged from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where doctors pronounced her cancer-free.

Sophia Wagner shows off her Christmas outfit after being discharged from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where doctors pronounced her cancer-free.

Their first Christmas with their first child isn’t quite what Rick and Amanda Wagner expected. For the past six months, 8-month-old Sophia Rae has battled leukemia, undergoing a blood transfusion, chemotherapy and a bone-marrow transplant.

Sophia was born April 17. One weekend in July, she was acting fussy, so, thinking she had an ear infection, Amanda Wagner decided to take her baby to the pediatrician.

But the diagnosis she received was drastically different: leukemia.

She rushed Sophia to Lancaster General Hospital, where tests showed the child’s white blood count was at 676,000 compared to the normal 10,000.

“She had so many white blood cells in her body it was toxic,” Amanda Wagner, 30, said.

Sophia was airlifted to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where doctors went to work to fight off the leukemia.

There have been moments when Sophia’s parents didn’t know if she would still be alive at Christmas.

“I remember thinking that I was going to have to plan a funeral,” Amanda Wagner said.

‘Best possible scenario’

When Sophia was first diagnosed with leukemia, doctors told the Wagners their daughter had a 20 percent chance of survival and that a bone-marrow transplant would up those odds to 60 percent.

“(The doctors) tell you, ‘This is what we have to do, and we’re hopeful that she’ll make it through this,’” Rick Wagner, 34, said. “That’s all they give you.”

On Nov. 10, Sophia was given a bone-marrow transplant from a female donor who was a 100 percent match. Between the transfusion and the transplant, not one drop of blood in Sophia’s body is hers, he said.

On Dec. 12, the Wagners got the best present they could have asked for when they learned Sophia is cancer free. She was discharged from the hospital two days later.

“In the words of the doctors, it’s ‘the best possible scenario we could have hoped for,’ ”Rick Wagner said.

Because of regulations, the Wagners must wait one year before they can reach out via a letter to the family of the bone-marrow donor.

“We have every intention of doing that. We would love to meet them. We’re super grateful,” Rick Wagner said.

A quiet Christmas

The Wagners say they could not have survived their ordeal without the support of family, friends and their medical teams.

Family and friends have helped in many ways, from raising money to mowing the lawn of their Ephrata Township home to organizing a prayer chain.

“We’ve run out of ways to thank everybody,” Rick Wagner said.

As for Christmas, it will look a little different this year.

Instead of large family gatherings, aunts and uncles and grandparents will take turns visiting Sophia, her parents said.

Even though Sophia was discharged from the hospital, the family is staying with a friend who lives close to Philadelphia, so they can be near in case something happens, they said.

Sophia will continue to be tested to make sure she remains cancer free.

“You can’t take life for granted,” Amanda Wagner said. “You have to appreciate everything.”

Sophia is blissfully unaware of the condition she’s in, her parents said. Throughout the whole process, she has continued to smile, even in the midst of treatments.

“The doctors call her a superstar,” Rick Wagner said.

Lindsey Blest is a staff writer at LNP.

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