CHKD oncology clinic nurse bonds with patients after fighting cancer herself


NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Registered Nurse Hannah Gerloff works in the oncology outpatient clinic at the Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters.

She works with children who are battling all types of cancers.

It was there about six years ago that she met Ethan who had been diagnosed with leukemia.

“When I was first diagnosed, I really didn’t understand because I was 8 years old,” said Ethan Gallagher.

Gerloff began working closely with Ethan’s family and made sure they all stayed informed.

“His mom is deaf and his dad is hearing impaired,” she said.

Sign language interpreter Lizzy Allen described what Ethan’s mother, Melinda Gallagher, thought of Gerloff.

“She learned a little bit of signing, she was comfortable with me so I didn’t feel alone and I was able to communicate with her. And as time went on, she learned more and more about deaf culture and made sure an interpreter was there.”

Gerloff said Ethan was in chemotherapy treatments when she was dealing with her own bout of colon cancer. Her personal experiences with cancer helped her better explain what her patients were feeling during their treatments.

“I could explain more to the parents why they don’t want to eat or drink because of the medicine and radiation how that makes you feel,” said Gerloff.

Ethan’s aunt, Marilyn Lipieko, said she didn’t know Gerloff had cancer until she was at the hospital one day and asked where their nurse was.

She said Gerloff has a special way of connecting with her young patients.

“She understands the kids and knows when to make them laugh,” said Lipieko.

“She was more understanding and made me more comfortable,” said Ethan.

Now, both Ethan and Gerloff are in remission.

“You don’t even know who you touch in this world and it really makes you think what you do is so important,” said Gerloff.

Gerloff said she still sees Ethan when he comes in for check-ups.

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