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This past Christmas was the first Bella Thomson spent at home. In fact, it was the first time enjoying the comforts of home in two years. And she’s only two years old! She has lived in hospitals her whole life. Isabella was born in Swift Current, Sask with Hirschsprung’s disease and spent months in Saskatoon hospital for several surgeries to remove parts of her bowel. At six months, she was referred to the Alberta Children’s Hospital for one more surgery by Dr. Mary Brindle. Thanks to her expertise and specialized equipment available here, Dr. Brindle fixed her intestinal issues with that one surgery. Bella was again referred to the experts at the Alberta Children’s Hospital when she became sick with a lung infection and wasn’t improving. And as her family would soon find out, it was the best thing that could have happened for Bella.
Immunologist Dr. Nicola Wright ordered a biopsy on an enlarged lymph node and made a shocking discovery: Bella, then almost 1, had a genetic disorder called severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID). It meant she had no immune system. If left undiagnosed for much longer, one infection or cold could have killed her. Doctors said it was a miracle Bella had survived so long without anyone knowing. Bella would need a blood and marrow transplant to give her a whole new immune system, and thankfully because of donor support, the hospital performs the most BMTs for children per year in Western Canada.
Facing another year in hospital, they knew it was where Bella needed to be. On March 25, 2015, Isabella received her BMT from an anonymous donor. The day they’ll celebrate as her “Rebirth Day.” After 500 days in hospital, including 288 days in isolation at ACH, she finally went home Dec 13, 2015. She is still followed by her BMT team and the genetics team to determine if her rare form of SCID was caused by a genetic condition: cartilage-hair hypoplasia that causes short-limbed dwarfism.
Bella is a happy, growing girl thanks to the donor funded BMT program and specialists who saved her life. Her family hopes to one day meet their other hero- their life giving donor.