A Dad and Daughter Pay It Forward at Children's

Marc Daniloof with his daughter, Audra, and one of their nurses

Marc Daniloff and his daughter, Audra, felt blessed to be in the “right place” during her battle with a rare form of cancer. Pictured in 2013 with Brigid Gilmore (left), a nurse in the hema tology, oncology, and transplant unit.

“You never know when you are going to need this place. But when you need it, you are exactly where you are supposed to be.”

For Marc Daniloff, that time was February 2013, when his 15-year-old daughter, Audra, developed a high, unexplained fever. She and her dance team brought home a trophy at the state championships that weekend, but the fever persisted. Suspecting mono, her doctor took a blood test and found something more alarming: a very low blood cell count. “Go to the Children’s ER,” he said. “Go now.”

When they reached Children's Wisconsin, Audra was in shock and nearly septic. Eleven days later, her medical team—including Drs. James Casper, Julie Talano, and David Margolis—determined that she had secondary hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH), a life-threatening blood cancer.

“That quick diagnosis alone was a miracle for such a rare disease,” Marc said. “A late diagnosis can mean major organ damage and a lifetime of complications. If undiagnosed in eight weeks, you will die.”

But Audra was lucky—and her doctors were skilled. It took some time, but they hit upon the right combination of medications to beat her HLH. By St. Patrick’s Day, Audra was cleared to go home. She returned to school just a few months later, on her 16th birthday.

This life-changing experience compelled Marc to include Children’s in his estate plan. “It was an easy decision,” he said. “I don’t know if people really understand how blessed we are to have this place. There’s something amazing going on over there.”

That “something amazing” shines through in seemingly small things, like the friendly valet parking service, or the education coordinator who made sure that Audra could keep up at school from the hospital. “That combination, that whole package, was what made the experience incredible,” he said.

“Oh, yeah—and that little minor detail of them saving her life.”

Before Audra was sick, Marc remembers being moved by a story he heard on Miracle Marathon, the annual 36-hour radiothon featuring Children’s patients and staff, and making a spontaneous donation. “I was blessed with a healthy daughter,” he said. “I had no idea what was coming. But when the storm hit, Children’s was there.”

With his planned gift, Marc is thinking of the past and the future. “My daughter’s life was saved because someone in the past donated money that funded experimental research that led to clinical trials and to new treatments for a very rare disease. I am just paying it forward so that some dad in the future will not have to go through what I went through.” Audra, now 20, attends Edgewood College in Madison and plans to become a child life specialist. She and Marc find many opportunities to give their time—and share their story—to benefit Children’s. For Marc, joining the Guardian Society has been one of the most meaningful ways to make a difference.

“You can sit on the sidelines and wish the game was going better,” he said. “Or you can get in the game and give all you can to win. I am a fan of getting in the game.”