Second season of ‘The Frontline for Hope’ to air

Aliyah Wilson plays with a camera held by photographer Tom Newcomb during the taping of the second season of “The Frontline for Hope” at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. (Credit: Abby Wuellner)

Ashley and Andrea Wilson knew the birth of their first baby would be far from routine. Physicians with the Fetal Care Center at Washington University Medical Center had closely monitored Andrea Wilson’s pregnancy and knew her delivery would require extra precautions. The baby girl’s skull had not fused properly, and an encephalocele, a pocket of spinal fluid, had formed toward the front of her face.

But on delivery day, physicians discovered something far more dramatic. The baby’s skull had not developed at the top of her head, leaving her brain exposed, a condition called acalvaria.

“This isn’t something you encounter once in a career or once in a lifetime,” said Albert Woo, MD, assistant professor of surgery at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and chief of plastic surgery at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. “It’s something you never see.”

The Wilsons were told that their daughter, Aliyah, probably would not survive.

The family’s story is detailed in the second season of “The Frontline for Hope,” a documentary series following patients, families and clinicians at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. The new season will premiere at 6:30 p.m. CT Saturday, Nov. 22, on KSDK (Channel 5). It will run six consecutive Saturdays, with the finale airing Dec. 27.

Nearly 450,000 people watched the show’s first season in spring 2013. In the months following, thousands more watched the episodes online. The series won three regional Emmys, among other honors. Early this year, Shine Media, an international distributor, picked up the series, with a request for six new episodes.

Coolfire Studios, a St. Louis production company, partnered with the hospital to create both seasons.

While the look and feel of the second season mirrors the first, the stories are different. The second set of episodes focuses largely on hematology and oncology.

“We felt strongly about having a presence in the show,” said Robert Hayashi, MD, director of the Division of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology at the School of Medicine and an attending physician at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. “If a child in St. Louis is diagnosed with cancer, chances are that child will be treated right here in St. Louis. I am glad the community will have the opportunity to see firsthand the incredible care these patients receive.”

Actor Jon Hamm narrates the second season of “The Frontline for Hope.” (Credit: Abby Wuellner)

In addition to spending time with patients’ families and physicians, cameras followed doctors into their labs to give viewers a look at the cutting-edge research taking place at Washington University Medical Center.
Also showcased were the vital roles played by nurses, child-life specialists and therapists in guiding families through the challenging situations they face during illnesses.

“Being a hematology/oncology nurse can be challenging, but seeing how I can make a difference in the lives of my patients and their families makes every hard day worthwhile,” said nurse Rema Malone. “Their hope, their strength, their courage and their determination is incredible. I’m excited for people who haven’t had the chance to spend time in this hospital to see what I see every day.”

Narrating the new season is native St. Louisan and Hollywood A-lister Jon Hamm. The actor, best known for his role as Donald Draper in the AMC television series “Mad Men,” is also an executive producer for the series’ second season.