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Ardith has suffered from serious gastrointestinal problems for most of her life, so she quickly recognized the symptoms when they presented in her daughter. Emma was lethargic, sick and not herself. She was quickly diagnosed at the Alberta Children’s Hospital with Crohn’s Disease and a rare kind of polyposis syndrome – small growths called polyps throughout her digestive tract. A couple of years later, she was also diagnosed with Celiac disease.
Pediatric gastroenterologist Dr. Leanna McKenzie began Emma on various drug combinations to try and help manage her symptoms. Unfortunately, none seemed to make any major improvements and Emma’s condition deteriorated. Over time, she faded into a different person, physically and emotionally. She could hardly eat anything, wasn’t growing or gaining any weight, and was iron-deficient. Ardith knew Emma was on the verge of going into sepsis or requiring an ileostomy. Dr. McKenzie decided it was time to try something more drastic. She put Emma onto IV infusions of Remicade, which blocks receptors so the body doesn’t attack itself. Dr. McKenzie and Emma’s family had discussed the possibility of trying Remicade earlier, but it posed more risks than some of the other potential treatments they tried first, so they left it as a last resort.
By the third Remicade infusion, Ardith could see Emma was improving. One year later, you would never know that Emma suffered from anything. The colour had returned to her face, she had energy again, her appetite returned, she began putting on weight and the joint and gut pain caused by her conditions were reduced. Most importantly, she started laughing again. Emma is a gifted student, with aptitudes in math, science and language. She is a Girl Guide, loves art, creating costumes, computer programming and has a “wicked sense of humour,” according to her mom.
Ardith is so grateful for the “unbelievable” care Alberta Children’s Hospital. Dr. McKenzie has always sought new and better treatments for Emma. Even after the success of Remicade, Dr. McKenzie is looking for even better therapies for Emma – she is not willing to settle for anything but the very best. “She has a place in her heart for all of her patients – she was meant to be in pediatrics,” says Ardith, adding the only way her family has made it to where they are is because of all of the specialized care and accommodations made by the hospital.