Just two days before Hurricane Irma hit Florida on Willow Stine’s third birthday, the toddler’s family received heartbreaking news: Willow had leukemia and would need to be admitted to the hospital immediately for chemotherapy treatment.
As the hurricane roared in, Willow’s mother, Jennifer Stine, 39, quickly realized that she’d brought nothing with her to the hospital to celebrate Willow’s birthday that weekend. She didn’t have a cake, decorations or presents, and Willow’s dad, Shaun, and 4-year-old sister, Eden, were hunkered down at home in Wesley Chapel, Florida, 45 miles away.
“Friday was the scariest moment of my life, and the hurricane on Sunday only compounded it,” Jennifer tells PEOPLE. “I didn’t think that I could take much more. It was overwhelming.”
Besides worrying about Willow and her cancer diagnosis, she felt frantic being away from Shaun, a beekeeper, and Eden, wondering if they’d be safe in the storm. “And to pile on top of that, I had nothing for Willow’s birthday,” she says. “We’d rushed to the hospital with nothing but the clothes on our backs.”
She soon realized, though, that there was no need to worry about honoring her daughter on her special day.
Nurses at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. …read more