At a recent meeting of Soroptimist International of Vacaville, Beth Gladney, Dana Aleman and Leticia DeGracia shared their experiences of dealing with children suffering from Kawasaki Disease. The condition, according to the Kawasaki Disease Foundation, primarily affects young children under the age of 5, is more common in boys, is not contagious and is more prevalent in those of Asian and Pacific Island descent.
An estimated 4,200 children are diagnosed each year.
The disease is characterized by an inflammation of blood vessels throughout the body. According to the Foundation, the condition can cause abnormalities in the coronary arteries and other parts of the heart. It is also believed to be the leading cause of heart disease in children.
"The consequences are so real if our kids go undiagnosed," said Aleman, a Fairfield resident and phlebotomy tech at NorthBay Medical Center in that city. She is also the mom of Levi, who was 4 when he was diagnosed two years ago.
Levi presented with flu-like symptoms, she said, his tongue resembling a strawberry, a high fever for five days, a rash on his little body. Eventually diagnosed with Kawasaki Disease, he went into heart failure at the University of California, Davis, Medical Center in Sacramento.
"I thought I was going to lose my son that night," she said tearfully.
But he bounced back, thanks to treatment by way of an IV of immunoglobulin (IVIG). It's created from 1,000 blood units, which means it takes 1,000 people to create one treatment. Levi needed two infusions.
"It took 2,000 blood donors to save my son's life," she confirmed.
DeGracia, a Sacramento resident and a phlebotomy tech at VacaValley Hospital, shared a similar experience. Her daughter, Jacqueline, was almost 15 months old when diagnosed with the disease four months ago.
Baby Jacqueline's fever refused to break, she vomited continuously, developed a rash on her tiny body and her lips were red, swollen with blisters.
"You could just see how sick she was by looking into her eyes," DeGracia remembered.
The infant received similar treatment and eventually was nursed back to health.
"It took 2,000 blood donors to save my daughter's life and her precious little heart," emphasized DeGracia. "If not treated within 10 days it can affect the heart. ... Our goal is to promote awareness."
Vacaville resident Gladney, an ICU nurse and clinical practice manager at NorthBay, said her son's situation was the same as those of the other youths. On Labor Day about a year ago, Eric, then 7, had a sore stomach, eventually stopped eating and drinking and his multi-day fever spiked to 103 degrees. He developed a rash, joint pain and other symptoms. Once in the hospital at Travis Air Force Base, tests revealed Levi's heart rate was high, his blood pressure a low 70/40.
"I'm a nurse and I missed this," she said, pausing for breath.
At Children's Hospital in Oakland, it was discovered that the child's liver and kidneys were enlarged , his blood pressure had bottomed out. Finally diagnosed with Kawasaki, Eric received one IVIG treatment and was revived.
"My son, he only needed one dose of IVIG but between us, it took 5,000 units to save our kids' lives," Gladney pointed out.
"We want to give back and be there for other mothers," DeGracia chimed in.
"It feels good to be able to help somebody else because when you're in the moment and you're experiencing it, you don't think of how many people it took to help your kids," she added.
The women hope to promote awareness, raise money for research and rally donors to provide enough blood for any child who needs an IVIG treatment. There's also the potential for starting up a support group, they said.
The moms ask anyone who is able to participate in blood drives on Monday (Oct. 28) and Tuesday.
NorthBay is sponsoring the events in partnership with BloodSource.
On Monday, participants can give blood from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Bloodmobile in the Solano Town Center parking lot in Fairfield across from NorthBay Medical Center. Appointments can be made online at www.bloodsource.org/drives. The location code is H101.
For information, call Rowena Vince Cruz at 646-5197 or Katie Lydon at 646-5484.
On Tuesday, participants can give blood from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at the VacaValley Hospital Campus, VacaValley Health Plaza, Suite 240m 1000 Nut Tree Rd. in Vacaville. Appointments can be made online at www.bloodsource.org/drives. The location code is H100.
For more information, call Rowena Vince Cruz at 646-5197.
All participants are asked to eat and drink before donating and to bring a picture ID. All will also receive a special "Pay It Forward" T-shirt.
For more information on Kawasaki Disease, go to the Kawasaki Disease Foundation site at http://www.kdfoundation.org/.
Follow Staff Writer Kimberly K. Fu at Twitter.com/ReporterKimFu.