Family Members Back the Children’s Hospital That Supports Their Son

October 31, 2002

While attending his son Adam’s baseball game in Maryland, Mark Perlo received devastating news about his other child, who was home in Rochester. “Before I left on the trip, we thought our 4-year-old son, Michael, had a cold,” Perlo says, vividly recalling the chain of events on that mid-summer day in 2001. “My wife, Daryl, took him to the doctor, who wanted to check the platelets in his blood.”

A number of parents were on the baseball road trip, including a nurse from Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong. When Perlo told the nurse what his wife said, her reaction told him everything he didn’t want to know. “She gave this calming, but concerned look, and I realized it could be serious. Later that night, I learned Michael had leukemia. The plane ride back to Rochester was the longest of my life.”

Michael is in the midst of a courageous battle against cancer. He and his family were honored at the Golisano Children’s Hospital Gala on Saturday, Oct. 26, at USAirports Air Charters Aircraft Hangar, 240 Airport Way, at the Greater Rochester International Airport.

The initial two weeks of Michael’s treatment were “brutal and really hard to watch,” Perlo says, pointing out that outstanding family support has been critical. Michael’s mother, Daryl, put her career in the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra on hold to care for him. He has a doting uncle, Wayne, who talks on the phone with Michael for hours each week. And Donna, his caring, compassionate aunt, was one of the family members who joined Michael at the hospital the day his condition was diagnosed.

It’s not been easy, but Michael is on the road to recovery. His second year of treatment will be finished in August 2003. He receives chemotherapy treatments at Golisano Children’s Hospital and at home. At the hospital, skilled members of the pediatric oncology staff care for Michael. His primary physician, Barbara Asselin, M.D., is one of the nation’s leading experts in acute lymphocytic leukemia, the most common type of cancer in children. It’s also the type Michael has been battling.

“Dr. Asselin is a fascinating, incredibly knowledgeable woman,” says Perlo, president and founder of Xerographics Solutions Inc. “Ask her any question and she will spend quality time giving answers to questions and explaining what’s happening.”

Every day, families such as the Perlos, of Fairport, turn to Golisano Children’s Hospital for the best care, both physically and emotionally. The division of pediatric oncology offers a wide variety of talents and technology designed to provide the best possible outcomes to children from birth until early adulthood.

 Perlo is still impressed by the way the hospital staff treats his son as a person, not a number. For instance, he enjoys telling people about his son’s interactions with Jeffrey Rubenstein, M.D., medical director of the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. Rubenstein has been known to wear a Superman shirt to put Michael at ease during difficult procedures.

Golisano Children’s Hospital health care professionals strive to treat the whole child, not just their cancer. “Our No. 1 goal is to cure the child of cancer,” says David Korones, M.D., who specializes in helping children who have brain tumors. “Our next most-pressing goal is to allow the child to lead as normal a life as possible, and to preserve the joy of being a child.” Between 50 and 60 children newly diagnosed with cancer are cared for each year at Golisano Children’s Hospital, and staff members work closely with the child’s pediatrician to formulate an agreed-upon treatment plan.

Michael’s experience with cancer wasn’t the first time he’s relied on the services and staff at Golisano Children’s Hospital. In 1997, he was born eight weeks prematurely and was cared for in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Walter Pegoli Jr., M.D., chief of pediatric surgery, also performed surgery to correct a malformation of his intestines. Each of Michael’s medical conditions is unrelated, his parents say. Regardless, they’re grateful that Golisano Children’s Hospital is here in their hometown.

“Dr. Pegoli is one of the nicest men we’ve ever met,” Perlo says. “What a wonderful guy. Four years after doing surgery on Michael - thousands of patients later - he came up and visited him in the hospital last year when he heard about the leukemia. He didn’t have to do that.”

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