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ANOTHER LOOK: Family tries to get back to 'normal'

Addison Vogl, 22 months, smiles Wednesday as she looks at a book with her mother, Stacey Vogl, in their Portsmouth home. (David Hansen/Daily News photo)

EDITOR'S NOTE: During the last week of 2004, we are publishing a series of stories taking "Another Look" at stories from the past year.

PORTSMOUTH - Stacey Vogl is not sure when her life will return to normal.

She said she's not even sure what normal is anymore.

Ever since the premature birth of their daughter Addison nearly 22 months ago, she and her husband, Michael, have been wrapped up in a topsy-turvy world of hospital stays, doctor's visits, chemotherapy and life-saving surgeries.

But as 2004 comes to a close, Addie's health appears to have stabilized and the liver cancer that once threatened the young Portsmouth girl's life appears to have been conquered.

"I don't think it will ever not be a part of our life, but it won't be a focus of our life," Stacey Vogl said .

Addie, who will turn 2 on March 1, has grown to nearly 23.5 pounds. She walks now. She's starting to talk, or is in what her mother calls the "babbling stage." And she likes to keep her parents busy. "She's into everything. We can't keep her still," Stacey Vogl said.

Addie weighed only 1 pound and 7 ounces when she was born three months premature on March 1, 2003. She spent her first 89 days in the intensive care unit at Hasbro Children's Hospital in Providence. Her health appeared normal until Sept. 22, 2003, when she was brought back to the hospital because of lack of appetite and inability to gain weight. Doctors found a tumor around her liver and diagnosed her with a rare form of liver cancer called hepatoblastoma.

After five rounds of chemotherapy treatments, Addie underwent a successful operation to remove the damaged portion of her liver in January at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. That was followed by two subsequent rounds of chemotherapy, and surgeries to repair a leak in her liver, straighten her twisted stomach and repair her esophagus.

Now the focus of Addie's condition is on monitoring and therapy.

Addie undergoes monthly blood tests and MRIs every three months to test for the presence of cancer.

And because she experienced some mild hearing loss in both ears due to the chemotherapy treatments, she is working with a speech pathologist from the South County Speech and Language Center to learn how to speak and use sign language. She already knows how to sign such words as "please," "thank you," and "more."

And her mother said she utters the word, "Mama."

"She's more into the babbling stage right now," she said.

Addie's incessant retching has almost all but ceased. But she still eats from a feeding tube, although she is experimenting with eating solid foods. Her parents put her at the table for dinner and Addie will put food to her mouth, but she still refuses to ingest it.

A part-time nursing assistant also continues to help care for Addie.

The extra help, Stacey Vogl said, is much appreciated as the family tries to get their life back on track.

Just last month, though, the family learned that Stacey's mother, Ruth Kelly of North Kingstown, has breast cancer.

Michael Vogl is commuting to a mortgage company, Allied Home Mortgage, in Foxboro, Mass., a job he took after being laid off from his job as an airline pilot shortly after Sept. 11, 2001. And Stacey Vogl has returned to her job working about three days a month on a per diem basis as a nutritionist for the Genesis Health Care Corp.

For the time being Stacey Vogl, is not sure when, and if, she will return to work full-time.

The family is expecting a new addition soon. Stacey is seven months pregnant - four weeks further along in her pregnancy then when Addie was born - with a boy.

She said their oldest son, Taylor, now 13, is excited about having a brother.

"He's dying for a boy," she said.

The family maintains a Web site, www.vogls.com, to keep others informed of Addie's progress.


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