WVU Medicine Children’s Mediathon: Larkin Coker’s Story

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Imagine having a five-year-old child who is constantly sick but never getting an accurate diagnosis to treat the problem.

For the Coker family, that isn’t something they have to imagine because Larkin Coker was that child a few years ago.

“We had been to see her pediatrician a number of times,” Larkin’s mother, Jodi Coker said. “They had done lab work, they had done all kinds of tests to figure out what it was and we just figured it was a virus.”

But it wasn’t a virus, it was something much worse.

“She ended up unable to walk, unable to move. She just laid on the couch and cried constantly.”

It wasn’t until Larkin was admitted to WVU Medicine Children’s did doctors finally confirm she had a large cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma — a type of cancer.

Larkin, who was six by the time she was admitted, said all of this is a blur to her, but she does remember feeling a little in shock.

“In a way, confused because I was kind of like in awe in a way,” she said. “Like, ‘wow, I didn’t realize that could happen.’ And I was also kind of sad.

There was also a great feeling of anxiety because Larkin was so young and her aunt had just passed away from lymphoma months prior.

“The first thing she said was ‘Aunt Sally just died from lymphoma, am I going to die too’,” Coker said. “And I was like no, you’re younger and it’s a different type and you have to be positive in those moments. We were all terrified.”

Larkin during her chemotherapy

Larkin had to undergo six months of chemotherapy. During that time, she would spend a week in the hospital and three weeks out of it to recover.

But what was initially frightful about the experience turned into positivity and so much more once the Coker family met the team of doctors and nurses at WVU Medicine Children’s.

“They were unbelievable,” Coker said. “I mean the nursing staff, the doctors, everybody was so attentive. And they really became like family to us.”

So much so, she said they stopped dreading going back into the hospital. Plus, the team of experts kept Larkin feeling like a child.

Larkin and one of her nurses

They did so by painting her nails, doing crafts and even bringing a dog and a pony.

For this, Larkin said she is “so very thankful”.

“It’s so amazing that they would do that.”

Her mom agreed.

“All day long, they’re trying to make sure that the kids are comfortable and they’re happy,” Coker said.

Not only did the hospital staff go above and beyond during Larkin’s stay, but even afterwards.

“We still have contact with quite a few of her nurses from that time,” Coker said. “I just spoke with her oncologist maybe a week ago, so they stay in close contact with us. I mean they were just rockstars, all of them.”

The most fascinating part, Coker said, is that these doctors and nurses have no reason to contact Larkin since she has been out of the hospital for so long. It just goes to show how much they care, she said.

Larkin (lef) and her mother showing off the different cards and beads she used to track her treatment

It demonstrates their compassion and also that they are very good at their jobs. Proof of that rests in the fact that five years later, Larkin is a healthy 11-year-old.

“Nothing eventful, which is perfect for us,” Coker said. “She doesn’t have any meds, she doesn’t have any follow-up care that she has to do any longer.”

For the care her daughter received from the excellent staff, Coker said she would recommend WVU Medicine Children’s to any family with a sick child.

“100 percent — 100 percent,” she said. “I have full trust in them. If they can make me feel that way with a cancer diagnosis. I feel like they can do anything there. They really are fantastic.”

Larkin just said she is grateful.

“Thank you — thank you to them because that’s the reason I’m still here,” she said.

And once again, her mom agreed. Especially because Larkin’s fifth year anniversary is May 23, 2021. At that point, she will be officially cancer-free.

“We’re just really grateful to the hospital and the care that we received and just so thankful to be on this side of it,” Coker said.

Artist rendering of planned WVU Medicine Children’s Hospital in Morgantown.

If you feel inspired by the lifesaving work at WVU Medicine Children’s to save lives like Larkin’s, then please donate to the Children’s Hospital. You can do so online to help support the incredible work underway now and all that will be done once the new Children’s Hospital is complete.

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