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Mary Bridge Children’s care teams and donors help Nohea triumph over cancer

Like most kids her age, 4-year-old Nohea loves to sing, dance, play dress-up and ride her Hello Kitty bike.

By Kortney Scroger

Like most kids her age, 4-year-old Nohea loves to sing, dance, play dress-up and ride her Hello Kitty bike. But unlike most kids her age, Nohea has been diagnosed with B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-Cell ALL). Along with her family, Nohea’s care team at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital is working hard to help her overcome it.

“When she was first diagnosed, it was her first time getting her blood drawn, her first time getting an IV — the whole experience was nerve-wracking,” Nohea’s mom, Aggie, says. “When I heard the diagnosis of childhood leukemia, my world fell apart."

Thankfully, the support of the Mary Bridge Children’s staff — like Esther Conley, RN — keeps Nohea and her family moving forward.

Working with “Nurse Esther”

“Esther involves Nohea in her care and talks to her like a big girl,” Aggie says. “Every time we go to the clinic, Nohea and Esther have their rhythm. Nohea goes with Esther to deliver her blood samples, and no matter what mood Nohea is in that day, she allows Esther to do whatever she needs to for her to get better.”

Along with cracking a few jokes to lighten the mood, “Nurse Esther” treats Nohea like she’s part of the care team.

“Nohea is a very spunky spirit. She’s one of those kiddos that I'm sure would do my job for me if she could,” Esther says. “The very first time I accessed her port, she tried so hard to watch everything I was doing. So, the next time she came to the clinic, I asked if she wanted to watch what I was doing, and she said ‘Yes!’ I had her mom hold her phone on camera mode so that Nohea could see, and she watched the entire process. She even helps me fill and deliver her lab tubes.”

Esther’s connection with kids like Nohea comes from personal experience.

“I care for these kids with all my heart,” she says. “My own child was a patient when he was young, and I know what the other side of it’s like. I strive to care for each family and child as if they’re my own. I’m thankful every day to be a part of each kiddo’s story.”

Nohea and her parents

Nohea with her parents, Aggie and Richard

Caring for the whole family

There are also aspects beyond medicine that make Mary Bridge Children’s a special place for Nohea’s family.

“Little moments mean a lot when you’re in a situation like this,” Aggie says. "There's this nurse who always checks in with me and knows I take breaks to get coffee. She's given me her punch card, so I could get a free cup. Every single person is incredibly thoughtful. The customer service is unmatched.”

Nohea enjoys snuggling with Mary Bridge Children’s facility dog, Olaf, and redeeming her tokens at the clinic treasure chest. For every poke or painful procedure, patients like Nohea receive a token they can trade for toys and gift cards, all which are made possible thanks to community donations.

"I hope people that donate to Mary Bridge Children’s know how amazing it feels to have resources available for families like mine,” Aggie shares. “Something as little as a gas card makes an enormous difference. One donor-supported program I love is Beads of Courage, because we can show Nohea what she’s been through. Every blood draw, every surgery, each bead represents a part of her journey. She can carry that for the rest of her life to remind her what she battled and that she won.”

Nohea in the hospital

Nohea at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital during treatment

Nohea is my hero

Nohea is scheduled to complete her treatment in April 2023 and is looking forward to ringing the “no more chemo” bell in the Mary Bridge Children’s Rose Garden — a moment that Aggie gets teary-eyed just thinking about. Until then, Nohea meets every day with a smile and the resilience of someone far beyond her years.

"She's my hero,” Aggies says. “I’m so proud of her for bossing it up with this. She’s an incredible communicator. We have an alarm for her meds. Her dad’s a pharmacist at MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital, but she’s constantly reminding us about her medication and telling us how she’s feeling. As a little 4-year-old who’s taking meds and dealing with the side effects, she's still fighting and enjoying life. It’s incredible.”

If you’d like to support cancer care for children like Nohea, you can make a gift to Mary Bridge Children’s Foundation today at