Liver Tumor Program
Patient Stories | Charlotte and Hepatoblastoma

Charlotte's Story: From Hopeless to Elated

When Charlotte Woolwine was just a baby, her parents remarked on how unusually healthy she was. 

But when she became a toddler, all they could think about was how to make her better. She had repeated stomach issues, a fever and nagging shoulder pain that seemed out of sorts.

Kelly and Jessica Woolwine, Charlotte’s parents: “We decided to make the appointment, but her regular pediatrician was not available that day, so we went in and saw a person, a doctor we had never met before, so talk about a day he’ll never forget, so they tested her for everything: strep, flu, this, that. We’re in there an hour-and-a-half or so, and he thinks he’s being borderline neurotic, he suggested that, just to be thorough, let’s get an ultrasound and rule out appendicitis.”

The ultrasound revealed grim news. Charlotte had stage-four hepatoblastoma, a rare liver tumor.

Kelly: “Heck, I had to ask ‘em how to spell it. I had never heard that before.”

The Woolwines were uneasy that their care team in Virginia hadn’t treated hepatoblastoma before. They found experts who did and had Charlotte medically transported to Cincinnati Children’s. Within 48 hours, she had a port and was getting chemotherapy.

James Geller, MD, Director, Liver Tumor Program: “It was quite a journey. She had very aggressive disease, and she presented with an exclamation mark. It wasn’t subtle. Each step of the way was quite a battle.”

Charlotte needed lots of surgeries and chemotherapy cycles. At one point, a liver transplant got delayed after surgery had started because doctors discovered her abdomen was full of cancer cells.

Jessica: “We had Dr. Geller on speakerphone, we’re the only people in the waiting room, it’s like the middle of the night."

Kelly: “this was probably 3 in the morning”

Jessica: “Yeah. And he said, ‘Well, you know, we’re going to keep figuring this out. We’ve got other tools in our toolbox, and we’re going to employ them, and we’re going to keep, you know." 

Kelly: “And I asked, ‘Is this the time, just tell us, is this the time we need to take Charlotte and leave here and go get comfortable and take her to Disney World." 

Kelly and Jessica: “And he said no."

Kelly: “Absolutely not, we are not done."

Charlotte got more chemo, got back on the list for a liver transplant, and within minutes of getting back on the list, had a perfect match.

Kelly: “Everything seemed to turn. Since then it’s been much better. It feels better. Her transplant surgery went really well."

Greg Tiao, MD, Surgical Director, Liver Transplant Program: “Charlotte was a complicated patient, and we are very fortunate that she continues to do well." 

They're coming up on almost a year since treatment, and Charlotte is 3 years old and thriving.

Jessica: "You know, I just want her to keep on being the vibrant, healthy kid that she always was before. Life is so fragile, and so unpredictable, and I’m not going to live whatever time I have or my family has on this earth being scared.”