3-year-old newly diagnosed with leukemia gets hospital birthday, despite Hurricane Irma

by: ABC News Updated:

ST. PETERSBURG, Fl - A Florida hospital celebrated a new patient's birthday, despite Hurricane Irma.

Willow Stine's family learned she had leukemia two days before the storm hit, on the same day as her third birthday, her mom Jennifer Newman told ABC News.

Newman stayed at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg with Willow while her husband and other daughter were at home, more than 40 miles away, braving the storm. 

"It was terrifying," said Newman of Wesley Chapel, Florida. "It was like my heart being ripped in two trying to process my baby having cancer and my other baby, afraid that she would be hurt. Thank god it wasn't what it was supposed to be. My heart goes out to the people in Key West. We are thankful that we didn't sustain as much damage as predicted."

 Newman said that Willow, 3, was diagnosed with leukemia on Sept. 8 after a routine doctor's visit. That same day, she was admitted to John Hopkins' oncology ward and prepped for treatment.


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On Sept. 10, Willow's third birthday, nurses surprised the girl with cake, balloons and presents. 

"They had about 10 to 15 nurses come in and staff sang 'Happy Birthday,'" Newman said. "She had been very sick the first two days she was here and she was laughing and smiling. It was a the only bright spot that entire weekend." 

 The hospital staff knew the family had been through a lot recently and wanted to cheer them up.

"When everyone walked in and Willow began opening gifts, the look on her mom’s face was priceless," a spokeswoman from the hospital told ABC News. "They have had some of the worst moments of their life in that past 72 hours, so the fact they were able to take a break from focusing on her diagnosis, brought so much emotion to her family."

"It was an honor to celebrate Willow and provide some joy to this family." 

 Newman said she is thankful the family home wasn't damaged by the storm and now she and her husband can focus on Willow's treatment.

"She is strong and tough," Newman said. "There's no doubt in my mind that she will beat this."