FEATURE | Posted March 13, 2015

Leukemia patient charms Hollywood

Disney star sends ‘virtual hug’ to patient Angela House

View video message from Disney star Olivia Holt to patient Angela House.

It’s not every day that a Disney star personally sends a “virtual hug” to a patient, but that’s exactly what teen performer Olivia Holt did when she learned about UC Davis leukemia patient Angela House.

When Angela sang Holt’s song “Snowflake” during a hastily planned holiday performance last Christmas morning, she thought her audience was a handful of nurses and other kids who also had to spend the holidays in the hospital.

But also in attendance were a reporter and photographer from the Sacramento Bee, who turned the bedside event into a feature story, which weeks later made its way to the Los Angeles-based teen performer. Holt was so impressed and moved by Angela’s generous spirit that she made a special video to thank Angela for her support and wish her a happy Valentine’s Day.

“It felt really awesome!” Angela said after she received Holt’s message. “I’ve always loved Olivia.”

An "electrifying" spirit

“Stay positive and always remember that it’s not going to be forever.”
— Angela House

Diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in October 2014 and too sick from chemotherapy and its side effects to drive back and forth to her home several hours away in Plumas County, Angela stayed at UC Davis Medical Center for more than three months. Despite the challenges in her battle against cancer, the spunky 13-year-old made many friends, and decided to make the best of her situation. Always looking for ways to cheer other children up with songs, toys and games, Angela gave patients in the pediatric unit a yuletide to remember.

With a Santa hat on her head, a protective mask over her mouth and nose and her IV pole in hand, Angela made her way through the halls of UC Davis Children’s Hospital, dancing and singing carols to everyone. She performed the songs as a “thank you” to her caregivers and to brighten the holiday for children like her, who could not be home for the holidays.

When Angela turned 13 in December, she transformed her hospital room into party central with games, treats, dancing and laughs. Wearing a tutu, she led other children on the floor of the hospital on a scavenger hunt for little prizes tucked into nooks and crannies, and even convinced staff to dress up in tutus and glitter. Even her doctor, wearing a pink tutu and pink feather boa, joined the festivities.

Patient Angela © UC Regents
While caroling on the pediatric floor, Angela passed out gifts to patients from her wagon

“She has an electrifying spirit and energy,” said Chris Martinez, Angela’s primary nurse, who has been taking care of her throughout treatment. “She impacts everyone with her sheer determination and her happy-go-lucky attitude, and she has an amazing sense of humor.”

Looking forward to more happy tunes ahead

With her last round of chemotherapy behind her, Angela is now staying near the hospital at the Ronald McDonald House until her immune system recovers from chemotherapy.

“We’re hoping to take her home any day now,” said Ann Marie House, Angela’s mother.

An aspiring performer, Angela says she can’t wait to start competing in Starbound, a national dance competition in which she has participated the past two years.

“If that doesn’t work out, though, I want to help kids who are sick — anything I can do to help,” she said.

To her friends who still are in the hospital, Angela sends her love and a special message — words that could easily be the beginnings of another optimistic tune:

“Stay positive and always remember that it’s not going to be forever.”