The first sign was petechiae – unusual marks on Liam’s skin. He was diagnosed with aplastic anemia, meaning he had essentially no blood cells due to bone marrow failure. For some with this disease, antibody infusions or blood transfusions can help treat or manage the condition, but Liam’s case was so severe, he would need a bone marrow transplant (BMT) to survive.
Fortunately a donor match was found, but before Liam was able to have his transplant, he came down with a fever. He came to the Alberta Children’s Hospital, where the team in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) determined Liam was very, very sick. Clots, including one the size of an adult fist, were preventing him from breathing. He crashed four times in less than a week and each time a Code Blue was called, Evonne put her faith in the team of specialists, including intensivist Dr. Meagan Mahoney, to save her son’s life. During the most severe crash, Liam was without oxygen for 45 minutes as the PICU team raced to clear his airway. Even though brain damage can occur after just several minutes without oxygen, the team was determined and continued to fight for Liam for 45 minutes. After surviving all four of the codes, Liam went for an MRI to see how much his brain had been impacted. Evonne remembers Dr. Mahoney running to the room with absolutely incredible results: Liam’s brain was miraculously unscathed.
Once Liam was stable enough, he was sent home to rest in hopes the team at the hospital could move forward with the BMT. But before he could have the transplant, he came down with a fungal infection in his lungs. The team at the hospital gave him a drug that helped shrink the infection, and even though Liam was still sicker than they would hope for a BMT recipient, they knew they had to go ahead with the process right away. Liam’s immune system was essentially killed off, the cells in his body eliminated by chemotherapy. He was then given the cells of an anonymous donor and Evonne waited to see if they would take. Dr. Tony Truong told Evonne they should know within 7-14 days. But two weeks came and went. Evonne and Dr. Truong waited anxiously. Finally, more than three weeks later, Liam grew 0.1 of a cell. The BMT had officially become his lifeline.
These days, Liam’s cell counts are climbing back toward a normal range and he is slowly regaining some strength after such a long and exhausting ordeal. Evonne is so grateful for everyone at the Alberta Children’s Hospital who helped save Liam’s life multiple times – she says he wouldn’t have survived without access to the Alberta Children’s Hospital.