In July 2015, Yael and Henry Hatfield were enjoying life in Tampa, FL, with their two children Nevin, age 12, and Rachel, age 10, when Yael noticed that Rachel was having difficulty using her right arm and leg. The family physician immediately referred them to the emergency room for an MRI. The scan revealed a rare and aggressive grade 3 glioblastoma cancer. Due to the tumor’s close proximity to her brainstem and pituitary gland, only a portion of it could be removed. Following surgery, Rachel endured a course of radiation and many days of chemotherapy. Severe weakness in her right arm and leg remained, so she persevered through physical occupational therapy sessions multiple times per week.
In October, a second emergency surgery was performed to place a shunt in Rachel’s brain to relieve fluid buildup, the cause of severe headaches. The surgery was successful, but her right side continued to deteriorate to the point that Rachel’s right hand was no longer functioning, and she could not walk well.
That same month, Rachel had another surgery to implant a port for easier administration of a new chemo available through a clinical trial, as well as to attempt to remove more of her tumor. Although the doctors were able to remove more, unfortunately her diagnosis was upgraded to grade 4. Post-surgery, Rachel was paralyzed on her right side and became restricted to a wheelchair. The Hatfields needed to modify a bathroom to accommodate Rachel’s disability and purchase a wheelchair-accessible van. These costs combined with out-of-pocket medical expenses presented the Hatfields with a huge financial challenge. Yael’s Tampa market center stepped up with donations and fundraisers, as well as helping their colleague sustain her business. Additionally, KW Cares was able to make a substantial grant to help. Thanks to the combined assistance, Yael and Henry were freed from financial worry and able to concentrate on their child’s quality of life.
Sadly, all the medical intervention could not save Rachel’s precious young life, but her beautiful and sparkling spirit lives on. Recently, Yael wrote philosophically to KW Cares Board Chair Mo Anderson saying, “As this year is the first of many without Rachel, we still find things that bring us peace and comfort. One is sharing how special KW has been to us and our family.”