Peyton Wuennenberg

Have you ever felt like life was great and all was well and then suddenly you just run full speed into a brick wall?

Shortly after Thanksgiving 2014, Peyton, a happy, healthy, energetic nine-year-old fourth grader, received the State of Washington as her assigned state to research for the Annual State Fair project. Actually, it is more than a project… it is a fixation for fourth graders at Ascension Catholic School. Sharing the excitement of this assignment, Peyton’s family of four booked a trip to Seattle for Spring Break.

In search of some family fun and to do some up-close and personal research, Peyton and her family flew to Seattle on March 17th. The next morning, while walking up Pike Place, Peyton complained a couple of times stating “Mom, my shoulder hurts” but mom blew off her complaints. The rest of the day more symptoms piled up--including loss of appetite, extreme fatigue, and a fever. Peyton tried her best to enjoy the rest of the Seattle trip despite these symptoms and upon returning to St. Louis endured several doctor visits and three sets of bloodwork (THREE times to deal with a needle in your arm is NOT a happy set of moments for a nine-year-old).

On April 15th, Peyton was admitted to a west St. Louis County hospital via the emergency room and spent several days there for testing. She was diagnosed with advanced pneumonia and leukemia. Upon hearing the word leukemia, Peyton’s mom requested an immediate transfer to St. Louis Children’s Hospital (a nationally ranked children’s hospital AND home of the Siteman Kids clinic).

Peyton arrived late Friday night via a quiet, anxiety-filled ambulance. The first inpatient nurse at Siteman Kids welcomed Peyton with tremendous bedside manner, and introduced her to fighting cancer firsthand because she too was undergoing chemotherapy--fighting her own cancer. Soon, Peyton’s official diagnosis was confirmed as being “pre B-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia” and it came with a very lengthy treatment plan.

During the course of Peyton’s 28 months of treatment, Peyton endured: a port placement surgery, weekly Siteman Kids clinic visits, 17 spinal taps, five inpatient stays totaling 37 days, 48 port accesses and a port removal surgery. Friends and relatives constantly commented about how remarkable Peyton endured everything--always with a genuine smile while at the Siteman Kids clinic or in the surgery center. Peyton’s smile and attitude were directly linked to the stellar employees of Siteman Kids. The doctors, nurses and staff truly treat patients like family. St. Louis Children’s Hospital and the Children’s Specialty Care Center felt like a home away from home to Peyton.

Siteman Kids essentially saved Peyton’s life while sustaining her family’s sanity and medical faith. Countless children and their families are saved and soothed by the Siteman Kids staff daily. St. Louisans are extremely blessed to have Siteman Kids and Siteman Cancer Center in such close proximity.