From Poland to the USA: A Family’s Long Journey So Their Son Can Survive

The following article is based on answers from an e-mail interview translated from Polish to English.

Marcel and his parents pose for a birthday photo.

Back in his home country of Poland, Marcel Samol wasn’t given very good odds of surviving a brain tumor that’s known as one of the most aggressive in children. Embryonal tumors with multilayered rosettes, otherwise known at ETMR, occurs in children aged 4 and under, mostly in children under 2 and is fatal 75% of the time. “I will also add the fact that in Poland they confused Marcel’s diagnosis,” says Karolina Brenk, Marcel’s mother. She and Marcel’s father, Artur, then began looking for help abroad. Karolina says, “Professor Jonathan Finlay from Nationwide Children’s Hospital came to the rescue,” adding, “He gave us a light in the tunnel and thanks to him we also knew the correct diagnosis. After 2 months since Marcel became ill we were already in the USA and Marcel started treatment.” Money was the biggest obstacle for Marcel’s parents, needing $850,000 for Marcel’s treatment at NCH. But they were able to get tremendous support from their community back home. “We managed to collect the entire amount in just 13 days and on January 19 we flew out for a new life.”

Karolina says they learned about our Ronald McDonald House from another family from Poland who had stayed previously. The family was relieved they could stay right next to the hospital and wouldn’t have to have another huge expense of  having to pay for a place while staying in Columbus. As Karolina describes it, staying at our House did take some getting used to. A few things were different from back in Poland. “First of all, we were surprised that there are no quilts with bedding, only bedspreads.”

Marcel and his family have been staying with us for about 4 months and will need to stay for a few more months. Karolina says Artur is also very happy that they’ve found a place here. She says, “during this hard period, we have a piece of “home””.  She writes that the family really enjoys the family kitchens the most pointing out, with a smiley face, “We can cook our Polish dishes here because we don’t like American food.” Karolina says another favorite spot at the House has been the big back yard, which has been very important because the family doesn’t have the ability to leave the hospital campus during the pandemic.

Artur, standing, hold Marcel in one of our family kitchens.As so many families often do, Marcel celebrated a very special day while staying at the House recently. He turned one year old at the beginning of May and our family activities manager, Abigail Brumme, was determined to help the family make sure Marcel had a traditional Polish first birthday. It was truly a momentous occasion with a cake donated by local bakery, The End Dessert Company, sparkling juice, and presents. Karolina says this will be a very special memory of their time staying at our House. “It was magical and beautiful! But above all, Marcel was smiling all the time and that was our goal!” Due to the need for

When asked what she would like to tell our community of staff, volunteers, & donors if she was in a room with everyone, she said, “I would like them to know that there are people here who are open-hearted to help families in this difficult time. Certainly, thank each one individually and hug each for how wonderful the work they do. Not everyone is able to sacrifice themselves and give their heart to help people. It is a beautiful gift and certainly each of them will be rewarded in their lives for the beautiful deeds they do. I would like to tell them that they are great! Great and thanks to people like them – we parents can peacefully fight for the lives of our children, for which we will be grateful for the rest of our lives. 🙂 ”

As for the future prognosis for Marcel, Karolina says, “Prospects for the future, we hope that they are the best because Marcel is a brave boy and treatment has gone very well, but with cancer you can never be sure. However, we live with good hope and we stick to it.”   She ends her note to us with, “Pozdrawiam serdecznie!” or Best wishes!

We certainly wish the best for Marcel, Karolina, & Artur too.