They got the call at a McDonald's Playland in October of last year. John Hurney ('92) and his wife Monica had promised their son Noah an ice cream cone after having his blood drawn.
As they awaited the test results, John had a bad feeling. Noah was a happy, friendly toddler, but persistent bruises on his legs had John worried.
Monica had taken Noah to the doctor's office for a regular exam including blood work in early September, and they left with an assurance that Noah was healthy. But after that visit, John noticed the bruises and asked Monica to bring him back to the doctor.
On the night before he was diagnosed, Noah's gums became bright red when Monica brushed his teeth. John and Monica returned to the doctor and pressed him to test Noah again. He reluctantly agreed.
They waited for his call in the McDonald's Playland, keeping an eye on Noah as he ran through the brightly colored plastic tubes with dozens of other children.
Imagining the worst diagnosis still could not have prepared John and Monica for that call. "I need you to listen carefully," said the doctor. "Your son has no platelets in his blood. You need to get to UCLA Children's Hospital immediately, where a team will be waiting for you."
Noah was diagnosed with ALL Leukemia with Central Nervous System involvement. In shock, the Hurneys rushed to UCLA, where Noah received a blood transfusion and spent ten days in the hospital receiving chemotherapy.
Upon hearing the diagnosis, the Pepperdine community reacted with an outpouring of support. Many staff and faculty members, including Stacy Taylor and Nancy McGinnis, visited the Hurneys in the hospital and even more gave blood in Noah's name. From alumni across the nation to the University Church of Christ on campus, many began praying for Noah and the Hurneys.
"Pepperdine has supported us so much through this," says John. "They have been more supportive than even our own families."
Two weeks after Noah was diagnosed, he went into full remission. He began a 36-month track of chemotherapy, which will decrease as he enters "maintenance" in November.
The three-year-old endures weekly hospital visits, bimonthly spinal taps, and multiple blood transfusions, but amazingly, he keeps it all in perspective. "I'm a brave boy when they give me my poke-y at the doctor's office," he says of his frequent injections. "I don't want to see those tears in Mommy's eyes."
Besides being brave, Noah keeps it lighthearted. After losing his hair a second time from the chemo, he announced to his mom and dad, "Now I can play hockey!" John and Monica laughed as they realized he was thinking about his cousin, a hockey player who shaves his head.
For Noah's treatment, the Hurneys chose to work with the comprehensive cancer center City of Hope because of its excellent staff and personal appeal. "From the moment you step in the door, everyone is so nice," says Monica. "You really feel like there is hope here."
After every blood transfusion, Noah's cheeks become rosy and he gains energy for the next day. During those times, John and Monica are thankful for both friends and strangers who give their blood.
"The blood is a gift from God," says John. "It's like a miracle," adds Monica. "I cannot imagine what we would do without donors. Every time he gets blood, I thank God for that person who gave it."
After a year of chemotherapy treatments once or twice a week, Noah's body seems to be responding well. Though he will undergo radiation treatments in January, the prognosis is positive. In the maintenance phase, he will decrease to chemo once a month and spinal taps every 45 days.
In the coming months, the Hurneys hope to spend more time outside of the hospital with their truck- and dinosaur-loving son. They look forward to being together, perhaps traveling to some of Noah's favorite spots: the beach, Pasadena's Kidspace Children's Museum, and Disneyland.
In honor of John, Monica, and Noah, the School of Law has partnered with City of Hope to host a blood drive on Tuesday, Oct. 16, and Wednesday, Oct. 17, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Gunderson Conference Room (SR1). Participation will automatically enter you into a drawing for two tickets to a Lakers or a Kings game to watch from a private suite at the Staples Center. Game tickets are sponsored by John's firm, Parker Mills Morin LLP.
by Emily DiFrisco