Remarkable SCIDS baby turns 24 today

Remarkable SCIDS baby turns 24 today

Campbellton – It’s news that any parent would hate to hear. Their child has been diagnosed with a severe illness requiring a transplant that will only prolong their life a few months, maybe a couple of years.

But a 24-year-old Campbellton woman has seemingly beaten the odds and outlived her life expectancy by 17 years and there’s no sign of slowing down.

Kiela MacDougall was the first mismatched bone marrow transplant recipient in North America. As a tiny baby, she wasn’t expected to live long and doctors told her parents she would be lucky to live to the age of seven.

At just six months of age, MacDougall had a haploidentical transplant because she had a disease called SCIDS (Severe Combined Immune Deficiency Syndrome, which is not the same as HIV or AIDs, as some people assumed at the time). She explained on Oct. 9 that doctors told her parents she had no immune system at all. The bone marrow transplant she first got from her father didn’t work because he was not an exact match and a second one was needed when she was just 11 months old.

“They told my parents that I wasn’t likely going to live long,” she said Oct. 9. “But things went well and here I am today, a relatively normal 23-year-old woman.” MacDougall turns 24 today, Oct. 22.

She said that she didn’t want any extra attention for having survived an illness that was a near death sentence in the 1980s. She just wanted people to be aware of the illness and that no matter how down people might be, there are people out there who care.

“I make a trip either every year or every two years to Sick Kids (Toronto’s Sick Children’s Hospital) to for check ups and to visit children who have SCIDS. This is something that parents and kids have to realize can be beaten and I make sure they know that when I visit.”

MacDougall’s parents found out about her illness on Dec. 24, 1984 when she was just two months old. It was the second time they had to deal with the same news. They had another daughter named Jennie who died of SCIDS about three years earlier when she, too, was just an infant.

“It was a punch in their stomach but they stuck with it. They pretty much moved to Toronto when I was really small because I was in the hospital for 13 months. Even when we came home, I had to go to the hospital here for blood work three times a day.”

She said that by the age of six or seven she was pretty much out of the woods and by age eight was off medication.

“I had a relatively normal childhood after that. My parents would keep an eye on me when there was a cold or flu bug going around, but then again, most people watch their kids a little closer then anyway.”

MacDougall said that a CBC documentary was done on her in 1985 that showed she was the first mismatched bone marrow transplant recipient ever in North America. Her parents would have to wear masks and gowns when visiting her in hospital because of her high chance of catching a bug that could endanger her life.

“I’m no one special really, I just want to let people know that they should never give up hope. I enjoy giving them hope and want more people to be aware of SCIDS and other serious illnesses that can be beaten. There’s lots of people out there who need a boost.”

MacDougall has three people she wants to credit for how things have come along.

“I can’t thank my father enough, he’s the one who made the bone marrow donation and of course my mother for staying with me all these years. You couldn’t ask for better parents. I also want to thank my best friend Lori-Anne Kennedy who has also been a great help in keeping me smiling for the last few years.”

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