The night Dean was born, one of his nurses noticed that he looked very pale and insisted on a blood count. The test showed he was severely anemic. Dean was flown to Banner Desert Medical Center’s Nursery Intensive Care Unit and received his first blood transfusion while his mom, Twila, recovered at another hospital. Dean was able to go home after about a week in the NICU.
Twila was still concerned about Dean’s condition when she took him for his two-month check up. The pediatrician conducted another blood test and sent them directly to Phoenix Children’s Hospital. After months of transfusions and testing, while ruling out every other condition, doctors determined that Dean suffers from a rare blood disorder called Diamond Blackfan Anemia (DBA).
Patients with DBA do not produce enough red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout their body. Corticosteroids often support the body’s efforts to make more red blood cells and are initially helpful for about 79% of people with DBA. Most DBA patients eventually rely on blood transfusions every few weeks to live normally.
In the fall of 2007, doctors determined that the steroid therapy was no longer effective for Dean, so they switched him to another therapy. Dean receives a transfusion of red blood cells every three to four weeks at Phoenix Children’s Hospital where he has received about 58 so far. “It is amazing to see the difference in him after he receives his transfusion,” Twila said. “He is able to focus and relax. It is also humbling to realize that my son’s life is dependent upon other people donating blood. Every blood donor is a true hero to Dean. Words cannot express how thankful we are for the people who donate blood.”
Dean’s red cell count began to rise on its own in June 2011. He has not needed a transfusion since then. His doctors are regularly monitoring his blood counts but now consider him to be in remission. Twila works with a support group to bring DBA families together to share information and inspiration and serves as an advocate for blood donation.
Dean lives in Mesa with his parents and brother.