When he was not yet a month old, Caden Atchley came down with pneumonia.
His worried parents, Josh and Melissa, took him to doctors. But weeks went by, and the tiny baby still wasn’t improving.
“The whole family got sick and we all got better, but Caden never got better,” Melissa, 26, says.
Caden still isn’t better.
Just about a month ago, the Spokane family got the terrible news:
Caden was not recovering because he has severe combined immune deficiency syndrome, or SCIDS, a rare disease in which the body lacks a defense system against disease. SCIDS is commonly known as “bubble boy disease,” after a famous case of a boy with the disease who lived for a time in a sealed bubble.
Hours after Caden’s diagnosis, the Atchleys were flown to Seattle Children’s Hospital. They have been in an isolation room there ever since.
“He has good days and bad days,” Melissa says. “He’s definitely a spunky little guy. He’s like a little firecracker. He’s been a trouper from the beginning.”
Since Caden’s body is so prone to infection, his only hope for survival is a bone marrow transplant. A successful transplant would give him an immune system so he could fend off germs. But none of his family members is a match for a bone marrow transplant.
On Saturday, the Inland Northwest Blood Center will host a marrow donor drive at Mt. Spokane High School to help find a match for Caden and other needy patients around the country.
“You could truly be someone’s last hope,” says Laura Oiland, a registered nurse who’s the marrow program supervisor for INBC.
Qualified people attending Saturday’s drive can join the National Marrow Donor Program registry. Registrants must be in good health and between the ages of 18 and 60. After filling out a consent booklet, potential donors will have their mouths swabbed for tissue typing.
Potential donors are asked to pay $20 to join the registry, to help defray the $52 cost of the test. But some grants are available for people in financial need, Oiland says.
If a prospective donor turns out to be a match for Caden or another patient, he or she will undergo blood tests, along with a physical.
Donations are collected either through the hip bone or, more commonly, through the blood.
About 10 percent of potential donors tested each year actually go on to donate, Oiland says.
Since Caden’s mother is part Hispanic, both Caucasian and Hispanic donors are needed at the drive, she says.
“We encourage all ethnic groups to be tested,” she says.
While he waits, Caden is undergoing a new enzyme therapy to try to ramp up his white blood cell levels, his mom, Melissa, says.
The Atchleys also have another son, a 5-year-old, who has stayed home in Spokane to go to kindergarten while his brother is in the hospital. But the boy came to visit for Thanksgiving, Melissa says.
“It was so sad,” she says. “He stood up by Caden’s crib. He touched him by his arm and told him how much he loved him and that he missed him. He knows Caden’s sick and, of course, he couldn’t understand how bad it is.”