Doctor, parents fight to get insurance coverage for toddler with cancer

Posted at 10:55 PM, Aug 09, 2012
and last updated 2012-08-13 07:25:24-04

RICHMOND, Va (WTVR) - Like most toddlers, 20-month-old Quinlan Thomas has seemingly boundless energy.

Wearing a dapper fedora, he raced up and down the halls of Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU recently on one of his toy cars looking as if nothing could slow him down.

The only thing that’s come close recently to putting the brakes on his fun are some pretty powerful drugs. Drugs that will hopefully save his life.

His mother Caroline first suspected something was wrong with her son when she noticed bruising on his tiny legs.

“He was a toddler, so we attributed it to a toddler running into things and falling down,” Caroline said.

But in June, Caroline and her husband Tony learned their first-born not only had leukemia, but one of the rarest forms of the disease in children.

Quinlan’s oncologist Dr. Gita Massey says right now for myeloid leukemia, the success rate of a complete cure and remission is only 50 to 60 percent.

But there was a ray of hope. Massey learned of a promising treatment in Phase Three of clinical trial, meaning the drug is on its way to becoming part of standard therapy. Caroline and Tony were thrilled and gave permission for their son to start treatment.

But just as it was about to begin they suffered a major setback.

“Just as the nurses were hanging the chemo bag, the insurance company called,” Caroline said.

“They said if we participated in the trial they were not going to pay for it,” Tony added.

Even thought the trial drug was free, the company said it would not pay for Quinlan’s remaining chemo treatments.

“In my 25 years of practice, I’ve never had an insurance company deny coverage for a child who was on a clinical trial,” Massey said. She wrote a letter to the insurance company asking it to reconsider, pointing out it was against state law to deny coverage.

Still the Thomases received another rejection.

But the couple and Dr. Massey didn’t give up and finally, after two weeks of uncertainty, their determination paid off.

“They turned around and said they would cover Quinlan’s treatment,” Tony said. “We were just elated.”

Another hurdle remains however. While the treatment could cure Quinlan, he must also have a bone marrow transplant to reduce the chances of the leukemia coming back.

His parents are hopeful they will find a match. “We know we’re going to get him through this. We know we will,” Tony said.

A bone marrow drive will be held for Quinlan Saturday, August 11 at the Colonial Heights Optimist Club
from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The address is 916 Meridian Avenue.

Click here for more information about DKMS which is organizing Quinlan’s bone marrow drive. It is the world’s largest marrow donor center.

And this is a link to Quinlan’s site: