In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

May 25, 2017

Superman Flies in to Brighten the Day for One Young Cancer Patient

By In the Loop

Superman recently took a break from fighting crime — and washing windows at Saint Marys — to touch the life of one very special young cancer patient.

Superman recently took a break from fighting crime — and washing windows — to touch the life of one very special young cancer patient. 

If you spend any time on social media, you've likely seen the photo. A window washer dressed as Superman hangs outside a young patient's window at the Saint Marys Campus of Mayo Clinic Hospital — Rochester. Their hands, though separated by glass, coming together at the fingertips.

What you might not know is the story behind that photo. For that, we need to go back to August 2015 when then-three-month-old identical twins Kendal and Kenedi Breyfogle were diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia after parents Abby and Aaron began noticing strange "spots" on their faces.

A skin biopsy back home in South Dakota helped pinpoint the preliminary diagnosis, at which point Kendal and Kenedi were referred to Mayo Clinic's campus for confirmation.

When bone marrow biopsies confirmed the diagnosis, Abby and Aaron made the decision — despite being 500 miles away from their home — to put their young girls' care in the hands of a Mayo Clinic care team. "Since they were such a complex case, and because AML is such a nasty beast, we wanted to be where they had the most experience with it," Abby says.

Kendal and Kenedi BreyfogleSix months later — after multiple rounds of chemotherapy and other treatment — both Kendal and Kenedi were declared to be in remission and sent home. It was a day that Abby worried may never come. "I will tell you that chemo is no joke," she says. "Watching your three-month-old puke bile and then have to turn around and feed them three more ounces of food while they're screaming in pain is a special form of torture I wouldn't wish on anybody."

But both girls, their parents, and their older sister, Teagan, made it through. Or they thought they had, until this past February when now two-year-old Kendal relapsed. In the blink of an eye, the family was back at Mayo Clinic. And this time, Aaron tells us Kendal's fight has included a bone marrow transplant, which her care team successfully performed earlier this month.

Due to the extensive damage to her immune system caused by her chemo treatments, Kendal must stay within the confines, and safety, of her hospital room while she recovers. It would be, we can only imagine, a lonely, emotionally challenging existence for any patient, let alone a two-year-old. But on at least one day, our aforementioned superhero window washer added some excitement.

As ABC News, Good Morning America, and many, many others reported, the visit came as part of a "Superhero Day" spearheaded by Mayo Clinic's Child Life staff. And though brief, we're told it provided just the kind of distraction Kendal and her parents needed. "Because she essentially has no immune system right now, she's not allowed to participate in any of the other normal Child Life activities," Aaron says. "So she was pretty excited to see somebody outside of her window that day. And since then, looking out the window has become one of her favorite things to do. She loves to watch everybody walk and drive by." (We're guessing she might also be looking for her 'Man of Steel' to make another day-brightening appearance.)

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Tags: Acute Myelogenous Leukemia, Bone Marrow Transplant, Chemotherapy, Child LIfe Program, Mayo Clinic Children's Center, Patient Stories

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