On the first day of 2011, after months of unexplained illness, Trey and Kim Bowman were told that their daughter, Bella, was diagnosed with an ependymoma brain tumor. Bella’s doctors determined that surgery, followed by several months of radiation treatment were necessary to treat her. Bella came through the surgery successfully but developed brain stem necrosis after eight months of proton radiation treatment. Almost a year after her initial diagnosis, Bella began choking and having trouble swallowing. Physicians at Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital determined that Bella had a stroke and the damage from the necrosis was irreversible. Bella passed away in her father’s arms with her mother by her side.
After such an unthinkable loss, the Bowmans focused their energies into the development of the Bella Bowman Foundation. “Bella taught us courage, faith, belief, and strength,” says Kim Bowman. “Everything we do is because of Bella,” she continues. In 2012, the Bowmans created the Bella Bowman Foundation, a nonprofit organization, to support research, provide education, and offer comfort care to children and families battling pediatric cancer or terminal illness. “We have found our purpose in life, to help others and give comfort to children and their families going through pediatric cancer,” says Kim. The mission of the Bella Bowman Foundation is to support research initiatives for pediatric brain cancer, fund new and continuous education, and offer Comfort Care.
The Bella Bowman Foundation hosts events such as Bella’s Ball as a fundraiser in order to live out the foundation’s mission and to provide direct care to children and families. The foundation is unique in its ability to address the specific needs of families who are facing pediatric illness. They are known for the Bella Bowman Foundation Comfort Care Bags which are given to families with children recently diagnosed with cancer. The bags include comfortable blankets, small toiletries, socks, and journals. The Foundation was instrumental in the development of the new, free-standing Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital. “We donated two playrooms on the Oncology/Hematology Floor,” says Kim. “We also sponsored the only palliative/hospice end-of-life care room in the hospital, named Bella’s Room.”
The foundation has had a profound impact on the community. Trey and Kim, along with foundation supporters, have provided over 400 Comfort Care Bags to OLOL Children’s Hospital, donated 12 iPads to pediatric oncology patients, hosted “No Mo Chemo” parties for children in the hospital, provided free back-to-school haircuts, and sponsored retreats and seminars.
While the foundation focuses on several areas, Trey and Kim have a passion for the Comfort Care aspect, as Bella’s last days of life were so special. The long-term goal is to fully support pediatric end-of-life care in Baton Rouge. “Our future goal is to build Bella’s House, a free-standing palliative/hospice house for children,” says Kim.