Gilchrist Kids Guides Family Through the Unimaginable

January 18, 2022, Gilchrist Kids, Hospice Patient Stories

Gilchrist Kids Guides Family Through the Unimaginable

Shanika Robinson thought the worst was behind her. Her teenaged son Tre had battled leukemia for five years and finally finished treatment just before his junior year. Shanika threw a huge “end of chemo” party, and they were excited to finally put the horrible experience behind them. But a few months later, the cancer was back.

Tre, Shanika and Sean
(L to R) – Tre, Shanika and Sean

Tre underwent a month-long stay at the hospital, where he underwent aggressive treatment with grueling side effects that landed him in the ICU. Tre hated the hospital—“It broke him down, mentally and physically,” recalls Shanika. Once he was back home, Tre told Shanika that no matter what, he didn’t want to go back to the hospital.

Shanika and Tre at Graduation
Shanika and Tre at Graduation

For a time, there was a sense of normalcy. Tre went back to school and managed to graduate on time. As he walked across the stage to get his diploma, he looked up and pointed to the sky, an acknowledgment of all he had overcome. He was excited about the future. He made plans to enroll in a trade school and even had a girlfriend.

But then, Shanika received crushing news. The doctor called her one evening with the results of Tre’s latest bloodwork, indicating yet another relapse. After everything they had been through—all the treatments, the long hospital stays, the exhaustion and nausea—they were right back where they started.

Shanika will never forget the day she had to tell Tre the news. “I sat Tre down, and his eyes got big. He anticipated what I was getting ready to say,” she recalls. “He grabbed his head, jumped up and darted out of the room, saying, ‘I’m gonna die.’”

“I tried to keep myself from falling apart,” says Shanika. “I knew I had to be strong.”

Somehow, Tre managed to find a sense of calm. Later, he told her that angels had gathered around him, and that he no longer felt afraid.

Shanika with nurse Heather Gelatka and social worker Adele Black

Gilchrist Kids Guides Family Through the Unimaginable
Shanika with nurse Heather Gelatka and social worker Adele Black

In March 2021, they began hospice with Gilchrist Kids, which provides care and support to children and young adults with serious illness and their families. From day one, Shanika, Tre and his brother, Sean, have had an entire team devoted to their care, including a doctor, nurse, social worker, chaplain and aide. Dr. Bridget Pekrul oversees Tre’s medical care while his nurse, Heather Gelatka, manages his symptoms so he can stay home and out of the hospital.

Meanwhile, social worker Adele Black provides counseling to Shanika, which in turn allows her to best support Tre as well as her other son, Sean. Adele also met with Tre early on to talk through his difficult feelings, letting him know he doesn’t have to hold it all inside.

Chaplain Don Hoehne comes and prays with them whenever requested. Their hospice aide, Kim Ross, gives massages and helps with personal care. Whenever the family needs help, Shanika just has to call and someone will come.

“Everyone at Gilchrist is so calm, sweet, personable, and so helpful beyond what I could have ever imagined,” she explains. “They are like family now.”

“I wouldn’t wish this experience on anyone, but having Gilchrist Kids makes it bearable. It’s scary, but with a team, I don’t feel alone…It is a blessing to have this support system.”

Tre and Shanika

Tre has good days and bad days. He is tired and weak but not in pain. Sometimes he is anxious, other times calm and settled. He and Shanika have nighttime talks in which he shares how he’s feeling, and Shanika is there to listen. He has also been reaching out to others, like texting his godmother to say, “I love you.”

No one knows how much time Tre has left, so Shanika says they focus on enjoying each day. She has learned to celebrate everything. Whenever she feels down, she thinks about how many lives Tre has touched, how strong he is and how others have drawn strength from him.

The experience has changed Shanika’s perspective on life. She doesn’t take anything for granted now. Shanika is writing a book about her experience and hopes that sharing her story will help others. She says Tre, too, wants his journey to help others. “He knows he’s here for a purpose and that his suffering is not in vain.”

Her wish for him, when it’s time, is for him to go to sleep and wake up with Jesus. She takes solace in the knowledge that Tre is where he wants to be. He is not in the hospital, hooked up to machines and tubes. He is at home, comfortable and at peace, with the ones he loves most.

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3 thoughts on “Gilchrist Kids Guides Family Through the Unimaginable

  1. Ieisha Johnson says:

    I love y’all. Keeping you all in my prayers. God is with Tre and my prayers is that God has his way and the final say. #Tre Strong#

  2. Shanika is truly an Angel on earth . Her spirit is so beautiful. As I read her story and tears run down my face I could only think to myself their has to be a God or higher power. The strength of this woman is admirable. I met Shanika as a young girl , we were the “Twins” in the neighborhood. God continue to be a fence around Shanika and her family. Sending Hugs, love and Prayers to Tre and family. You have touched the heart of this stranger. 😍

  3. Lolly says:

    Thank you again and again for sharing your story in such a beautiful and heartful manner. All my love and gratitude for you and Tre in sharing your story of faith and courage.

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