Bellinda Kontominas Medical Reporter
August 4, 2007
A COUGH, a sneeze or the common cold could be enough to kill tiny Harrison Draper.
Signs outside the four-month-old’s hospital room ask for hands to be washed before entry. Gowns and masks must be worn and people are urged to stay away if they feel unwell.
Harrison was born with a rare form of the genetic disorder known as severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), which affects one in 2 million people.
It is so rare that Harrison is the first person to be placed on an Australian register for adenosine deaminase deficiency, although it is thought there may be up to three cases.
The disorder is also known as the “bubble-boy” disease, after an American boy who lived for 12 years in a plastic, germ-free bubble.
Harrison does not live in a bubble, but his first venture outside this week, since falling ill, required a plastic rain cover over his pram to protect him from germs.
It is not all bad news for the little boy, whose mother, Tracey Brown, was able to take him home yesterday for the first time since he fell seriously ill 10 weeks ago.
” We’ve been waiting a long time for this day,” said Ms Brown, who has been sleeping next to Harrison on a fold-out bed while her husband looks after their three other children at the couple’s Central Coast home.
Harrison’s improvement is in part due to a bone marrow transplant he received three weeks ago from his two-year-old sister Ella.
The next few weeks will reveal whether the transplant has taken. If successful, signs of immunity should start to show within six months.
The family must take precautions at home, including setting up an isolation room. “If any of the other kids start to get sick they won’t be able to come home; they’ll have to stay at their grandparents’ or at a friend’s house,” Ms Brown said. “We won’t be able to have any visitors, especially children, and the house will need to be kept clean and sanitised.”
Harrison was diagnosed with the disorder at the age of two months, after falling ill with meningitis and then pneumonia. He suffered neurological complications and will have hearing and sight problems.
If his immunity improves enough, it is hoped he will be able to go to preschool and live a normal life.
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