MU Children's Hospital links to experts across the globe

The University of Missouri's Children's Hospital is growing. Right now it is located within University Hospital but work has already begun to relocate the services to Columbia Regional Hospital where a free standing women's and children's hospital will be formed, for some, the service offered by MU's Children's Hospital is a well kept secret.

A Jefferson City family is thankful to find treatment for their preschooler so close to home. Five-year-old Grayson Smith is just beginning a long journey. He is two months into a three year course of treatment for leukemia. He has acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) which is a fast-growing cancer of the white blood cells. He was diagnosed quickly after suffering severe leg pain.

While the diagnosis of cancer was a shock to his parents Ray and Lisa Smith, the family found some relief in the fact that Grayson would be able to have his treatment a short drive from their Jefferson City home.

"We had heard a lot of people say, 'Oh are you going to be going to Kansas City or St. Louis or even farther away?" recalls Grayson's father Ray. "You know they were very surprised when we said, no we're just going up to Columbia they can treat him there."

Families travel from across the state to the facility, and the hospital is also their link to expertise from around the globe. Doctors at MU are a part of the Children's Oncology Group. The treatment protocol used for patients like Grayson is developed through cooperation between more than 200 member hospitals in seven countries.

Dr. Barbara Gruner, Asst. Professor of Child Health explains how other children enrolled in previous clinical trials helped forge the treatments used for Grayson. She adds, "Now Grayson is helping other kids through allowing us to share the data that we learn from his treatment." And it's not just cancer patients who are linked to international experts. "Grayson's story is repeated 100 times a year here with specialists in other areas." says Dr. Timothy Fete, Department Chair of Child Health. He points to the hospital's programs to treat children with Cystic Fibrosis, asthma and sickle cell disease.

Grayson's doctors believe he has a better than 80-percent chance at a cure. His parents say he's regaining his energy and they hope he will be ready to enroll in kindergarten next fall.