Letter from Joann Primrose

Our daughter Jaclyn was 8 months old when it seemed she was always getting sick. It was one ear infection after another or a cold with a high temperature that would last for two-three weeks. My husband and I, being first time parents, couldn’t help but wonder what we were doing wrong in caring for our daughter always felt there was something seriously wrong with Jaclyn, however, our pediatrician assured us that Jackie was just a normal, healthy child. She stated that children are frequently ill during the first year of their life.

After a number of infections I decided to take Jackie to another pediatrician for a second opinion. He also felt that it was quite normal for an infant to be sick as often as Jaclyn had been. He did, however, decide to take a blood sample from Jaclyn and discovered that Jackie’s neutrophil count (a type of white blood cell that fights off bacterial infections) was near zero. He felt at that time that her neutrophils may have been wiped out from many viruses Jaclyn had developed in the past few months and that over time her count would return to normal.

We took Jaclyn for a blood test every week but her count did not improve. Jaclyn was constantly sick. Approximately two months had passed when Jaclyn’s pediatrician contacted me at work to say that the latest blood test showed Jaclyn’s neutrophils had not increased. He informed me that we would wait one more month and if there were still no chance in Jackie’s neutrophil count he would refer her to a specialist at the Manitoba Cancer Research Building. He also stated he was concerned that Jaclyn may have something seriously wrong with her and that leukemia was even a possibility.

Being faced with the thought of leukemia, we certainly did not want to wait another month to see if Jackie’s neutrophil count would improve. I felt that we had wasted enough time already. My boss recommended his children’s pediatrician, Dr. Esquivel, who worked out of the Winnipeg Clinic. He said he was an excellent doctor and felt that Dr. Esquivel would be able to help Jaclyn. I made an appointment with Dr. Esquivel the very next day. He immediately diagnosed Jaclyn as having a rare blood disorder called neutropenia. He referred us to Dr. Sarah Israels of the Winnipeg Cancer Research Foundation. She performed a bone marrow test on Jaclyn and confirmed Dr. Esquivel’s diagnosis. The bone marrow test showed that Jaclyn’s bone marrow produced neutrophils but they did not mature enough to enter Jackie’s blood system. The bone marrow test also ruled out all other serious possibilities, i.e. leukemia, liver disease etc.

My husband and I felt better once we finally know what was wrong with our daughter, and knowing it was not in the nurturing of our child. I am happy to report that Jacklyn’s condition has significantly improved over the past year. Her neutrophil count has increased from approximately 250 to over 1,000. It is amazing what a difference the extra neutrophils have made in Jaclyn’s health. She is now off antibiotics anywhere from 6-8 weeks before she requires medicine. She has not had an ear infection for well over a year.

In closing, I would like to urge all parents who feel their children are too frequently sick, to have them tested for neutropenia. It is very important that these children are diagnosed immediately as simple childhood viruses that are not treated with antibiotics may develop into something more serious.