With his eye saved, 6-year-old has been a guide for others

Logan Milleman is greeted by ophthalmologist Carol Shields for a follow-up visit at Wills Eye Hospital.
Logan Milleman is greeted by ophthalmologist Carol Shields for a follow-up visit at Wills Eye Hospital. (ED HILLE / Staff Photographer)
Posted: January 25, 2014

Logan Milleman bounced down a hallway of Wills Eye Hospital on Wednesday, showing off his new ID badge: Master Logan, Commander in Chief. He was in good spirits. His right eye has been cancer-free for almost five years.

The 6-year-old's parents, Robert and Jeri Milleman, trailed behind him with three large Kohl's bags filled with stuffed-animal toys they had brought for the children in the hospital.

He has come a long way.

In 2009, Logan's right eye was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, a rare pediatric cancer that is blinding and life-threatening. The Millemans and their only child traveled from their home in Kechi, Kan., near Wichita, to Philadelphia to consult Wills' Carol Shields, an ophthalmologist specializing in oncology. Logan had the most advanced stage of retinoblastoma, Shields told the family. The best option was to remove the eye.

Was there any way to save Logan's eye? Robert asked.

There was, Shields replied, but it was risky.

After four surgeries, all in 2009, that involved a novel procedure called intra-arterial chemotherapy - flowing chemotherapy into the eye through tiny catheters in the ophthalmic artery - Logan's tumor seems to be gone.

His right eye is getting stronger and he's able to see with it more clearly. And although Logan has to wear a patch over his good eye about two hours a day (to strengthen his right eye), this doesn't stop him from playing flag football, basketball, T-ball, and catch in his backyard.

"He can hit the baseball better than I can throw it, more consistently, with the patch on," Jeri said.

Before his first surgery, nurse Diane Sandusky gave Logan a stuffed puppy, and "Puppy" began to go everywhere with him.

"It's like I gave him the world," she said of the way Logan took to the plush toy.

The Millemans travel to Philadelphia every six months for follow-up appointments with doctors, nurses, and specialists who have gotten to know the boy well. On the way to appointments, the family always stops at a Kohl's in New Jersey to buy toys and books for the hospitalized children. Logan sometimes passes out the toys himself, taking time to talk to the young patients.

On one trip to Kohl's last year, a cashier asked the boy whether all of the toys were for his room. He shook his head. After hearing his story, the cashier and an assistant store manager donated books and animals to the hospital. The donations are now kept in what's called Logan's Library at Wills.

When Logan saw how he was helped, "he wanted to give back and used the term pay it forward. I was shocked a kid would even understand the term," Shields said.

Robert and Jeri draw on Logan's strength.

"He's very positive, and he's probably helped us more than we've helped him," Robert said.


jxie@philly.com

215-854-2771 @julieyinxie

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