Teenage Patient Gives Back to Columbia Clinic

14-year-old Hudson doesn’t remember the care he received for a rare blood disorder at Columbia when he was a toddler. But the children receiving care there now were on his mind last year as he prepared for his bar mitzvah.

For his bar mitzvah project, Hudson chose to give back to the team at Columbia who took care of him as a baby, donating funds as well as his artwork to the children’s hematology and oncology clinic. The clinic has created a waiting room activity with a decorating project based on Hudson’s artwork, encouraging patients and their families to color and use glitter and stickers to bring the drawings to life.

Artwork showing a colorful peacock

Hudson, who received treatment for autoimmmune neutropenia at Columbia, donated funds as well as his artwork to the children’s hematology and oncology clinic.

“When you go into a hospital and you’re waiting there, it can be depressing,” Hudson says. “I wanted to make the artwork for Columbia to make it a little more cheerful for the kids who have to spend time there.”

Artwork showing a zebra running

Hudson chose the animals in his artwork for their uniqueness: “The zebra has stripe patterns and every one of them is different, and the peacock has such bright and special tail feathers," Hudson said.

When Hudson was very sick at 11 months old, his mother, Rachel Pell, took him to the nearest emergency department, where the doctors dismissed his illness as a virus. However, Hudson’s pediatrician thought it sounded more serious and instructed Pell to take Hudson to the hospital in Ridgewood, New Jersey, close to their home. They checked him into the pediatric intensive care unit, where he stayed for eight days.

Hudson’s blood tests showed that he had no white blood cells (neutrophils) to fight infection, and a bacterial infection in his neck had caused an abscess to form that was blocking his airway. After many tests and surgery, doctors began to suspect Hudson might have autoimmune neutropenia, a blood disorder in which the immune system attacks neutrophils. While Hudson was in the pediatric intensive care unit, doctors worked closely with specialists at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center, and once his diagnosis was confirmed the family was referred to Sujit Sheth, MD, a pediatric hematology-oncology specialist then practicing at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center.

“It was terrifying at first,” Pell says. “Everything was so overwhelming, and we had to limit his exposure to germs as much as possible. But as soon as we got to the hematology and oncology floor at Columbia, I felt relieved. Everything was so clean, and everyone had so much empathy and kindness. Columbia is a special place. When I saw what all of the other children and their families were experiencing in that unit, I knew I was a lucky parent.”

After a few challenging years battling with recurrent infections, Hudson’s autoimmune neutropenia resolved itself, as happens with most cases of this rare disease. Now 14 years old, Hudson is completely healthy. Although he remembers nothing of his treatment, he empathizes with other children and caregivers going through similar experiences, including his younger brother, who has a chronic eosinophilic disease, which requires regular treatments.

In addition to his artistic pursuits, Hudson is a competitive swimmer and enjoys skiing with his friends and family. He is also a teaching assistant at his Hebrew school and hopes to be a leader in training at a hiking and nature camp this summer. In both roles Hudson can continue to support children, including those who may have special needs.

“I am proud of Hudson’s ability to show great empathy for others in need,” Pell says. “Taking time and thinking about others is a big part of the Jewish religion and also a critical trait for humankind. Columbia stepped up and supported our family in ways that I can’t ever say thank you enough for. I can only hope that every patient and caregiver who needs that kind of support is able to get it.”