New Years day of 2011, 7-year-old Bella Bowman was diagnosed with an ependymoma brain tumor, an answer to many months of unexplained illness. Four days later, Bella’s Red Dot Story began. Bella’s parents explained to her that the cancer she had was a “Red Dot”, and it had to be removed.
Dr. Allen Joseph and Dr. Kelly Scrantz successfully removed the Red Dot, a very risky surgery that came with many possible complications that she may not be able to breath, eat, swallow, or walk on her own when it was complete. Her surgery was recorded as a gross total resection. Aside from fears of possible damage, Bella’s first words after surgery was, “Is my Red Dot gone?” Once Bella recovered from surgery, she was moved to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, TN then to Jacksonville, FL for proton radiation. Eight months later, Bella developed brain stem radiation necrosis, a rare side effect from radiation treatments. Bella underwent 60 hyperbaric oxygen treatments, chemotherapy treatments, sleep studies, and physical, speech, and occupational therapy, from August-December 2011, traveling back and forth from Baton Rouge to Memphis.
Mid December 2011, Bella was returning home from St Jude when she began choking and having difficulty breathing. Kim, Bella’s mom, called OLOL Children’s Hospital as they crossed the Louisiana state line. Bella was admitted to OLOL that evening, and in less than 48 hours, her ability to swallow and breathe were inhibited so much that she was put on a ventilator and admitted to PICU. A MRI showed that she had a stroke, and the team of physicians realized that the radiation necrosis in her brain stem was irreversible and nothing more could be done. Doctors did not know how much time she had left, but wanted to provide comfort care. Within 5 days of removing the ventilator, Bella passed away in her daddy’s arms and her mommy beside her.
Bella’s unique way of communicating to the world was indescribably amazing. She gave belief, hope, strength, and faith to so many. Bella’s faith was challenged by a Red Dot. She would always say, “Go away red dot and don’t ever come back.” Although Bella is gone from us, her kind, loving, strong, sweet spirit will continue to be shared to many through her family, friends, and the Bella Bowman Foundation (www.bellabowman.org). The unity that Bella created will live with us forever.