St. Joe’s Made the Impossible, Possible for the Bayless Family and Now They are Doing That for Others

When you’re a parent, you expect your kids to have their share of runny noses and stomach bugs and the Bayless brood of six was no different. So, in 2005, when Howard and Deanna’s youngest daughter, 17-month-old Emily, developed a UTI that wouldn’t go away, they made sure received she the necessary treatment, but weren’t overly concerned. However, when she started spiking high fevers, throwing up, and suffering from a swollen abdomen, they knew much more was going on, and took her for emergency care.

The family was ambulanced from Lakeland to Tampa and it was at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital on December 19 that their beautiful little girl was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a soft tissue cancer which affected the muscles in the pelvic region. As the 5th rarest pediatric cancer, the statistics were scary. But St. Joe’s offered the Bayless family hope.

Howard was impressed by the way the St. Joe’s team took the time to patiently discuss everything with him and his wife. “They spent those first few hours going through every detail of her treatment plan, how the chemotherapy and radiation would work, and the potential impact on Emily’s overall health. It was a lot for sure, but the care the St. Joe’s Team showed in making sure we understood what the future would entail and answer any questions we had made dealing with the horrific news much more manageable.”

Following her diagnosis Emily endured six weeks of radiation followed by fifty-two weeks of chemotherapy, something no toddler – or their family – should ever have to experience.

It wasn’t an easy road, but today, thanks to the expert care she received, Emily is now a happy, healthy 17-year-old, whose strongest memory of her days at St. Joe’s is that she always felt safe there. Grateful for the gift of seeing their daughter live life as typical teen, they have made a leadership gift to name the Bayless Cancer Institute at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital and give hope to others who are dealing with such a life-changing diagnosis.

In addition, the Bayless Family made the 2022 St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital Foundation Heroes Ball a night to remember when Howard and Deanna served as Chairs for the spectacular black-tie event and, for the first time in the event’s history, raised over $1 million for St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital which will go to help fund early-phase treatment options at the Bayless Children’s Cancer Institute.  

Howard says, “Watching Emily live life so fully, doing the things she loves, reminds me every day that St. Joe’s has given us our greatest gift, and we consider it a privilege to help them do the same for others.”

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