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Medical Obstacles Overcome (part 2)

Jan 07, 2015 05:02PM ● Published by Dia

Football Fanatic

A brave 8-year-old tackles rare blood disorder 

The last day of school before summer break ended like any other. In June 2013 8-year-old Braden Allison left class and headed over to a friend’s house in his neighborhood to play outside. When Braden’s mom, Jill, picked him up, she knew something was wrong. As he tried to get into the car, Braden told his mom that his legs hurt so bad, he couldn’t move them. They returned home, where the pain of shifting positions while seated brought Braden to tears. Jill thought Braden had simply hurt himself while playing. But over the next few days, Braden began to run a fever.

After two trips to the doctor and one phone call to a pediatrician friend, Jill took Braden to Cook Children’s Hospital, where he was promptly admitted and given a course of IV antibiotics—the doctor assumed the young boy was suffering from an infection. But many tests administered over the next two weeks revealed nothing wrong. They called in another doctor for a second consult, and as Jill recalls, “I will never forget her saying, ‘I wonder if he has HLH?’”  

 Hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis, or HLH, is a rare blood disease in which the immune system goes into overdrive. Cases of HLH begin with the patient fighting a normal infection or virus. The immune system begins by targeting bad cells, but eventually starts attacking the good ones, too. “It is impossible to know when exactly this took over [Braden’s body] or what the initial illness even was,” Jill said. “But it is life-threatening if not treated.” 

After a blood test and a bone-marrow test, the hematologist confirmed Braden had HLH. Meanwhile, Braden had gotten so ill he to be admitted to the ICU. They started him on chemotherapy and steroids that night. While HLH isn’t cancer, a side effect of chemotherapy treats the illness. It shuts down the immune system, which allows it to reset. Thankfully, this treatment worked for Braden, who faced a bone-marrow transplant if it did not.

 After four days in ICU, Braden started improving, and he moved to the hematology/oncology floor for the next two weeks. He spent 32 days at Cook Children’s before he was finally able to return home.

 “The Cook Children’s staff saved Braden’s life,” Jill says, noting that they relied on Cook Children’s throughout the recovery process. “The staff at the Cook Children’s Hematology/Oncology clinic in Grapevine played an important role. Everyone in the clinic was so nice and accommodating from the minute we walked in. We felt like part of the family there right away.”

For Braden, the best thing about beating HLH was that he was able to watch his favorite football team play again—the Carroll Dragons. Because his immune system was compromised, Braden missed much of his second grade year, and in addition, couldn’t attend events such as football games. However, the school worked with the family to ensure Braden could become the vibrant third grader he is today—a third grader who not only gets to play his favorite sport, football, but also cheer on his favorite team.

 Nine-year-old Braden Allison, says that for “as long as he can remember,” he has been a Southlake Dragon fan. “I love that they are so good at all the sports they play.”

 An avid football player himself, Braden was forced to take some time off a few years ago. A rare blood disorder, HLH, landed him in the hospital in 2013, and as a result Braden underwent chemotherapy. During that time Braden was granted a wish from the Make A Wish Foundation. His wish was to travel to the big game Feb. 1, so he and his family packed up and headed to Arizona this past month to cheer on his second favorite football team.    


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