Like many children who have experienced a serious illness, Tulasha Prasai wants to be a doctor or nurse when she grows up.
In December 2014, Tulasha, 10, was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). She received high-intensity chemotherapy in Akron Children’s Hospital’s Showers Family Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders.
Tulasha and her family are refugees from Bhutan who settled in the North Hill area of Akron 4 years ago. Through an interpreter, her father, Dhanapati Prasai, explained that when Tulasha began having cramps, tiredness and nausea that continued to get worse, her pediatrician, P. Cooper White, MD, referred her to the Showers Center where they discovered she had leukemia.
It was a very difficult time for the family both emotionally and spiritually, compounded by the fact that Dhanapati and his wife, Leela Prasai do not speak English. Medical interpreter Damber Subba, also a Nepali-speaking Bhutanese refugee, helped the family understand their daughter’s medical treatment and communicate with the care team.
For the Prasai family, the services Damber provided went above and beyond the traditional level of support. When Tulasha was admitted to the hospital, Leela was unable to stay by her daughter’s side because she had to continue working. Dhanapati stayed home to care for the couple’s youngest daughter, Alisha.
Damber was at Tulasha’s bedside every day during her approximately 8-month long hospitalization. He was there while her medical team made their daily rounds, asking questions on behalf of her parents and communicating updates on her condition back to the family.
Immediately after Tulasha was diagnosed, the family received vouchers for the hospital’s parking deck and cafeteria. They also received Giant Eagle gift cards to help purchase groceries. This type of assistance is provided to all families when their children are newly diagnosed with cancer.
Social workers from Akron Children’s helped the family apply for Medicaid and other financial resources. Tulasha also qualified for disability benefits through Social Security.
In 2015, Akron Children’s provided $86.8 million of unreimbursed Medicaid and uncompensated care to children like Tulasha.
Dhanapati doesn’t know how they would have gotten through their daughter’s illness without Damber’s support, her medical team and the financial resources that enabled them to focus on Tulasha getting well.
“Everyone involved gave their precious time,” Dhanapati said.
Today Tulasha’s leukemia is in remission. She is a fourth grader at Forest Hill Elementary School, where her favorite subjects are math and science.
She continues to receive support through the Showers Center’s School and Community Outreach Program to help with her transition back to school and daily life – ensuring she will have the bright future her parents hoped for when they started a new life in Akron, Ohio.