Layla grew up traveling the world with her father. Her enthusiasm for animals and nature cannot be underestimated.
Before returning to school this fall, her parents decided to enroll her in the Moderna vaccine trials. To keep her safe at school and enable her to continue doing what she loves most: exploring.
“We have taken the pandemic very seriously,” Shawn said. “We’re very science oriented in this house and we followed the science on this and we said, ‘Let’s get these kids the vaccine as soon as possible.'”
Moderna has entered the final phase of clinical trials to test their vaccine on 5- to 11-year-olds. About 4,000 children across the country are taking part in the study, 60 of them from San Diego.
Shawn asked for Layla, 6, to participate in the trials at the end of June. However, it was also around the same time that Layla started to feel sick.
“She started complaining of headaches, nausea and vomiting,” Shawn said.
Towards the end of July it got worse. During a visit to the emergency room, doctors discovered that Layla had a brain tumor, a potential cancerous tumor.
“We had surgery on August 2, and I wasn’t thinking about Moderna’s trial at all,” Shawn said. “But once we got home, I realized, ‘You know what, she could be thrown out of the process because of this. We can beat cancer, but then COVID-19 could kill us.”
Frustrated and concerned about his daughter’s condition, Shawn contacted Moderna to talk to them about his daughter’s situation. Since Layla did not yet have a definitive diagnosis of her condition, Moderna decided to let her participate anyway.
By early October, she had received both injections.
“She came out of the bathroom after her shower and I looked at her and said, ‘Are you okay?'” Shawn said. “And she said, ‘I’m very tired and my body hurts and it’s really cold in here.’ And I was like ‘Yes!’ I was never so excited to hear that my child was not feeling well.”
While they don’t know yet whether Layla received a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine or a placebo dose, Shawn says he’s crossing their fingers that she was able to get the vaccine and hopes it’s one less thing for his family to worry about. to make about.
Especially since she got the second dose that same day, Shawn got another life-changing phone call.
“Ten minutes into the drive home, the phone rang, it was Memphis, Tennessee, it was St. Judes,” Shawn said. “It was a woman named Tabitha and I told her what we were doing and she said, ‘Oh, that’s great, it’s amazing’ and she said, ‘We have a diagnosis.’
Layla was diagnosed with a rare aggressive form of brain cancer called anaplastic supratentorial ependymoma.
While Layla’s battle with cancer has only just begun, her parents hope that Layla’s participation in the vaccine trials will not only help protect her safety, but encourage others who have not yet done so to get vaccinated.
The young girl’s love for animals has led her father to create what he calls a meaningful GoFundMe page to raise money for research at St. Jude’s Hospital and donate to animal charities of Layla’s choice.