A Southeast Texas boy with a compromised immune system is thankful for the life-protecting infusions he receives every few weeks. The treatment is thanks to the donation of plasma from thousands of strangers. The gift means he is protected from potentially deadly illnesses.
Cutting edge testing finally gave the Wilsons the diagnosis needed to know how to properly treat Austin. Now the LaBelle family is sharing Austin's answer with others, hoping to help save lives with the warning signs and encourage plasma donations.
"Austin is learning to climb our dirt piles," said Aaron Wilson, Austin's older brother. "And he is so kind."
Austin Wilson is 5 years old. He loves cuddling with his bunny rabbit, Pix and building with legos.
"Battle bots now is his big thing," said Jaselyn Wilson, his sister. "I can see him one day being on the show."
His mother, Jenny Wilson, can tell you that the boy is full of life.
He is inquisitive, he is stubborn and he's had to be stubborn because he has not given up," said Wilson.
In late 2013, Austin was hospitalized back-to-back for croup, the flu, intense ear infections and several other illnesses.
Searching for answers, the Wilsons had a long road ahead of them.
"It was blood, wait, repeat for a year and a half," said Wilson. "The whole time thinking that this is going to be it, this is the results. It was always, 'well these results didn't tell us anything,' because he wasn't a classic case."
Austin's answer was found after testing at Texas Children's Hospital. Dr. Lenora Noroski, a specialist in allergy and immunology, has studied his complex case and discussed the variation with doctors all over the world.
"Austin has a problem with his immune system in that he doesn't have a certain part that is required to fight infections," said Dr. Noroski. "The part that is impaired or missing are the B cells."
His official diagnosis is Bruton's XLA. The primary immune disorder cannot be cured but Austin can receive infusions that protect him from germs on a temporary basis.
Little vials hold the immunoglobulin. It's a product made from blood plasma. The American Academy of Allergy and Immunology explains it takes thousands of pooled plasma donations to extract the immunoglobulins needed for Austin's infusions.
"You can think of immunoglobulins as like these little soldiers that have been trained by vaccinations," said Dr. Noroski. "These little soldiers are trained exactly to fight against specific kinds of infections and they're ready inside of us. Well Austin didn't just did not have enough."
When Austin was vaccinated as a baby, his body didn't respond to the injections as intended, failing to build up defenses against the diseases. His body doesn't know how to fight off serious illnesses. Relying on the infusions to protect him from germs, Austin sits down every two weeks, gets pricked with a needle and then accepts the uncomfortable side effects like headaches and nausea. His mom says she's just relieved to have an answer to Austin's medical problems and is now determined to help others who are struggling to find out what's wrong with their children.
"What about the parents who don't know what about the kids who are constantly sick," asked Wilson.
Having to trust the infusions to boost Austin's immune system can be tough but Wilson says she isn't keeping him locked away.
"He only lives once and there was a chance I didn't know that he was going to live, so every milestone that he's had; his first soccer game, he's going to be starting kindergarten …and I'll be doggoned if I'm going to put this kid in a bubble and not let him live the best life that he can," said Wilson.
Austin is living life while hoping Southeast Texans will educate themselves on primary immune disorders and plasma donation.
"All I can do now is give him his treatment every two weeks, make sure that his environment is safe for him and raise as much awareness as I can for plasma donation," said Wilson. "That's what keeps him healthy and alive and it's not just him, it's kids and adults just like him with all kinds of disorders."
- The Immune Deficiency Foundation is the national patient organization dedicated to improving the diagnosis, treatment and quality of life of persons with primary immunodeficiency diseases through advocacy, education and research. To visit their website click here: IDF
- Dr. Noroski penned an article over Immunodeficiency. To read it click here: Immunodeficiency awareness & severe combined immunodeficiency newborn screening
- For information about plasma donation through the Gulf Coast Donor Center click here: giveblood.org
The American Red Cross offers these key facts on plasma donation:
- Plasma is collected simultaneously with a platelet donation at select American Red Cross blood donation centers only.
- You can donate every 28 days, up to 13 times per year.
- The average donation takes 1 hour and 15 minutes.
- If you are a plasma donor, you can still give regular whole blood or power red. Both gifts are vital for patients with life-threatening diseases.
- You can call 1-800-RED-CROSS for additional information or to schedule an appointment at a donation center near you.