C hristopher Bach was only 17 months old when his parents learned the devastating news: Their perpetually happy baby boy had a 30 percent chance to live.
A day before, the two parents had taken Christopher to his primary care physician for an earache. He wound up in the emergency room the following night after the pain continued and his fever spiked, despite antibiotics and Tylenol.
Blood tests confirmed a diagnosis of leukemia, father Bill Bach said. Chris’ bone marrow was producing cancerous white blood cells that were inhibiting the production of normal blood cells. The cancer was already in his central nervous system and could spread to other organs.
Chris’ parents digested the news over several tearful hours at his bedside. With a background as a nurse, Chris’ mom Huong was already somewhat familiar with the disease. She stayed by her son’s bedside as Bill Bach huddled in the hospital library to learn more.
“I spent literally the whole night reading about it,” said Bill Bach, a career U.S. diplomat. “Our singular focus was to fight the disease with the best possible treatment, wherever it was available.”
Christopher’s parents took him to the nearby Bethesda, Maryland-based National Institutes of Health, which was studying a new treatment for the disease, Bill Bach said. Within two weeks, doctors declared Christopher’s cancer in remission. Chemotherapy continued for another five years to ensure the cancer didn’t return.
The diagnosis and extended course of treatment fundamentally changed the course of Dr. Christopher Bach’s life. The experience, Dr. Bach now recalls, played an influential role in his decision to pursue a career in medicine. He is the newest member of the Tidelands Health Gastroenterology team, practicing out of offices in Murrells Inlet and Georgetown.
“It made me want to help others like the doctors who had helped me,” Dr. Bach said. “It helped color the decisions I made later in life.”