Newborn's Brain Cancer Diagnosis Shatters Parents

By Orlando Health


Being a first-time parent can be a whirlwind. Of course, you feel the excitement and joy, but the feelings parents are often afraid to talk about are their fears of the unknown.

When Tom and Mary Hayes found out they were expecting, everything pointed toward a healthy pregnancy. When their baby girl, Katie Rose, arrived one month early, she was five pounds and 11 ounces of happy, healthy miracle. This seemed to be their family’s fairytale outcome and the future looked brighter than ever.

But soon after her birth, those fears of the unknown arose. Her parents noticed that Katie Rose’s eye looked swollen. Then, they observed that her head began to swell. It was not long before their seemingly healthy baby girl struggled to keep any food down. Suddenly, the Hayes’ lives were thrust into uncertainty as they searched for answers for their newborn, who seemed to worsen every day.

When your baby is sick, you don’t need theories, guesses or maybes. You need answers. Fortunately, the Hayes family found answers at Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children.

Finding Answers

By the time she arrived at the hospital, Katie Rose’s heart rate and breathing had dropped to critical levels. Dr. J. Gene Chen, Critical Care Medicine physician, and the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) team quickly jumped into action, stabilizing her enough to get to the root of her symptoms. Shockingly, CT scans revealed a mass in her brain that put Katie Rose’s overnight survival into question. 

Biopsy results revealed the mass to be glioblastoma (GBM), one of the deadliest forms of brain cancer. This news shook Tom and Mary to their cores. With warmth and compassion, Dr. Elbabaa, Director of the Leon Pediatric Neuroscience Center of Excellence at Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, spent time with the family and promised that he and his team would fight for Katie Rose’s life. Hope returned to the couple’s hearts - and not only did she survive the night, she made it through her first round of brain surgery. Katie Rose became known as the miracle baby, and for good reason. 

With every smile that replaced a sob, we grew more hopeful that we were getting out healthy baby back. – Mary, Mother of Katie Rose

Katie’s Comeback from GBM

World-recognized oncologists, Dr. Amy Smith and Dr. Ana Aguilar-Bonilla, charted the course for Katie Rose’s return to wellness. Living up to her “miracle baby” reputation, Katie Rose responded to her chemo treatments better than anyone could have predicted. With every precious ounce of weight their baby gained, and every smile that replaced a sob, Tom and Mary grew more hopeful. They were getting their healthy baby back.

With a new drug treatment, Katie Rose’s GBM diagnosis will soon be rendered a painful memory in Tom and Mary’s minds. Yet despite the agonizing circumstances, their family will never forget the team who saved Katie Rose’s life and brought joy back to becoming a parent for the first time. “They’re not just doctors and nurses to us anymore. After everything they’ve seen us through, I feel like we're leaving part of our family at Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital,” said Mary.

Remarkably, Tom, Mary and Katie Rose have a chance at a happy, healthy future together - an opportunity that all families deserve. Though life is always full of twists and turns, one thing is for certain: the Hayes family is forever grateful for their extended family at Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children.

For more information on pediatric cancer care at Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, visit

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