In 2006, Cody Camp of Colchester was 6 years old. He loved baseball and was a diehard Red Sox fan.
He could often be found wearing a Red Sox cap and a Manny Ramirez shirt. He was also especially fond of his autographed photo of 1970′s Red Sox pitcher Luis Tiant.
But suddently Cody became a big fan of modern-day pitcher Jon Lester. They had something in common. They both were diagnosed with lymphoma, a form of cancer. Specifically, Cody was diagnosed with Burkitt ‘s lymphoma, a fast-growing form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. However, he and his family were optimistic as more than half of people diagnosed with the cancer survive.
Lester survived his cancer and became one of the best pitchers on the team.
“Lester’s story gave Cody a lot of hope,” said Paul Iannaccone, an attorney at RisCassi & Davis, the family’s lawyer in the medical malpractice case that followed. Iannaccone said Cody had just finished his t-ball season when he went to the hospital for his first go-round of chemotherapy.
Cody was then released from the hospital but soon went back in a second time for another round of chemotherapy. Tragically, just seven weeks after his diagnosis, he was dead. But his parents didn’t turn inward in their grief. Instead, they made an investment that could help countless other boys like their son beat the horrible disease.
After Cody’s death, Donald and Patricia Camp hired Iannaccone and filed a lawsuit.
It never went to trial. Instead, there was a confidential settlement. So no one will reveal just who were the negligent parties or what exactly went wrong. Iannaccone would not even say what hospital treated Cody, but according to the boy’s obituary, he died at the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford.
“During the course of his treatment for Burkitt’s lymphoma and after the family was told that he was responding well, Cody passed suddenly,” said Iannaccone. The lawyer characterized the lymphoma as “a really curable childhood cancer” and that there are “well-established protocol” for that treatment.
To bolster the malpractice claim, Iannaccone hired a well-respected doctor in the field, Dr. Mitchell Cairo, chief of pediatric hematology, oncology and stem cell transplantation at New York Medical College. Cairo chaired the research study group that developed the chemotherapy protocol used to treat Cody.
He’s a leading international researcher in the field of children’s cancer, having published more than 275 articles and given more than 850 national and international presentations, according to biographical information submitted for a 2011 medical conference.
Cairo’s testimony led to a “significant” medical malpractice settlement for the Camp family, said Iannaccone.
Now the family is trying to make a positive out of their tragic loss and have donated a portion of the settlement proceeds – $300,000 to be exact – so Cairo and his colleagues can better understand the cancer that took Cody’s life. Specifically, the money will go to fund a fellowship that will pay for an additional researcher at New York Medical College.
The Camp family’s decision to fund the fellowship wasn’t simply out of appreciation for Cairo’s help in their malpractice case. It was also because Cairo risked his professional career to testify. Iannaccone said Cairo lost the chairmanship of a nationally recognized children’s cancer research group because of his decision to help the Camp family.
“Tremendous pressure was brought to bear on Dr. Cairo by various groups he belongs to, to not help us,” said Iannaccone. “I’m not entirely certain who was behind the pressure but Dr. Cairo definitely felt it. Having spoken to him on the phone when it was about to happen, he was pretty blindsided by it.”
Iannaccone said he’s noticed a trend with physicians leery of testifying in malpractice cases because of possible retaliation.
“I don’t have any data or evidence to support that but when you see it happen again and again a doctor essentially steered off a case by people on committees they belong to, physician organizations they belong to, you have to believe something’s going on behind the scenes and in this case I know it happened,” said Iannaccone.
The fellowship is just now up and running. Cairo will oversee a Ph.D. or physician he designates to research specific cancers effecting children, like Burkitt’s lymphoma. The fellowship is scheduled to run through 2018.
“I think I’ve had a number of occasions where clients have started foundations and the like,” said Iannaccone. “I’ve never had the combination of what happened to Dr. Cairo and the charitable contribution tying together.”•