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Eight hours after Addison was born, she became ill and jaundiced. Bloodwork showed a dangerously low platelet count, putting her at risk of a brain hemorrhage. She had several blood transfusions, which helped her platelet count normalize. Dr. Steele from the Alberta Children’s Hospital began to monitor Addison as an outpatient. Three weeks later, Addison’s platelet count plummeted, so she was admitted to the Alberta Children’s Hospital where specialists worked tirelessly to find out what this mystery disorder was. They even shipped samples of her blood to diagnostic centres around the world to help find answers as quickly as possible. One of the tests done overseas finally pinpointed the problem: Addison suffered from a rare genetic blood disorder called thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP), which causes blood clots to form in small vessels. It’s so rare, Jennica learned there are only 100 people in the world known to have it.
When she was about four months old, Addison began having plasma transfusions at the Alberta Children’s Hospital every two weeks to help her maintain her platelet level. Dr. Steele decided to try special infusions of Factor 8, which is used to treat some hemophiliacs, and see if it would help Addison. It had to be special-ordered from the U.S. Miraculously, the treatment worked and it was approved for Addison long-term. The next step was training Jennica to administer the injections herself at home to save the family trips to the hospital every three days. She worked with the hematology team over a month. Then, thanks to the donor-funded Hospital at Home program, a nurse came to the Willis home for each injection over the next six months, until Jennica was completely comfortable. Without injections, Addison could suffer a stroke in a matter of days.
Now, Addison is a happy kid enrolled in ballet and swimming lessons. In the fall, she hit a milestone her mom was once unsure she’d make: Going to preschool. On her day as “special helper” at school, she was asked to bring something to show the class. Addison made her teachers tear up by bringing her beaded journey and telling the class, “My blood is sick.” Her mom says despite the hundreds of pokes she’s had, Addison remains eager to visit the Alberta Children’s Hospital.