Friday, January 25, 2008

Medical miracle or cause for concern?

Like most people I’m delighted for Demi-Lee, 15-year-old liver transplant patient who has made a miraculous recovery. But something about this miracle leaves me unsettled. Let’s look at the unfolding drama:

How the 'miracle' happened

After an unspecified viral illness Demi-Lee has liver transplant. Anti-rejection drugs taken

Nine months later she falls ill. Her blood type changes to that of her donor

New liver's blood stem cells penetrate her bone marrow

Her body performs its own bone marrow transplant by donor's blood cells taking over her immune system and no longer treating liver as foreign

Her body no longer treats the donated liver as foreign

Demi no longer requires anti-rejection drugs. She is a normal, healthy teenager

She was given less than 48 hours to live when a donated liver from a 12-year-old boy became available. Her body seemed to be rejecting something, as it turned out her own blood/immunity system. She’s a cute, intelligent kid and I really hope she goes on to live a full and normal life.

Doctors, of course, want to understand the mechanism which caused what seems to me a spontaneous mutation. The odds of it happening unaided are enormous, but to actually consider generating something so powerful without fully knowing the consequences as well as the mechanics is an unsettling thought.

A couple of news links

…changed blood types and immune system

Transplant girl's blood change a 'miracle'

5 comments:

D.K. Raed said...

Now you are causing me to re-examine my unbelief in miracles. Her blood type changed?! I'm really staggered by this. All I can think is that must've been some strong 12-yr old liver! One in 6 Billion, hmmm, something is twanging in my mind from an old Theory of Probability class that the odds of this particular pairing would be much higher than that. This should keep the medical community researching for decades. I hope Demi has a long run at this thing called life. She has been pre-disastered.

Cartledge said...

D.K. It is remarkable, but my problem with probabilities is that you really must have an exhaustive data set. For example, were there factors in the genetic history of either donor or recipient which might have created the basis for this apparent anomaly? Medicine is still part guess work and meds are generally problematic. There are always a percentage of people, no matter how small, who will not react to a treatment in an otherwise proven way. I wouldn’t like to figure the probabilities…

And yes, I hope this kid has a glorious life.

abi said...

There's a secret in there somewhere. I hope they find it.

enigma4ever said...

I too am VERY puzzled by this miracle....I mean like VERY...it makes NO sense..it is NOT possible...

but I am happy for her...but I did think about this alot today and thought HOW....

and like Abi said- I hope they do indeed think about it....

Cartledge said...

I hope they think a great deal about it.