I am heading to Brooklyn for a conference tomorrow — ALD: Identifying Standards of Care. Looking through the agenda, I couldn’t help but get excited about once again meeting some of my heroes. Doctors, researchers, and parents who are actively making a difference in the future of ALD. For me, it’s like going to the Oscars, minus the gowns and red carpet.
Pouring through the list of speakers, I noticed a name that looked familiar. Then, I looked again at my computer. On my screen, right beside the agenda, was my next THIS is ALD story — The Waterman Boys.
Kelly Waterman is speaking tomorrow and she had just shared her family’s story with me. It’s an incredible story full of luck and love and the power of change.
THIS is ALD #10 — The Waterman Boys
My husband and I live in New Jersey but we both have both worked at an oncology hospital in Manhattan for many years. I have done most of my own doctoring in New York City and I suppose for something as big as having a baby I just felt more comfortable having my children in NY.
We were so excited when we got pregnant with our second son and that my pregnancy went so smoothly. Our first son Jalen had been born two months prematurely four years ago and though he’s turned out wonderfully-the experience of having a preemie and the NICU was hard to forget. Kylar was born ten months ago full term via c-section, was a beautiful baby boy and did so well we even went home one day early!
We had been home a week, had just settled in when we received a phone call from the pediatrician at 430pm on that Friday afternoon telling us that Kylar’s newborn screen had come back for something called ALD and that we needed to go get confirmation testing done to just make sure. Our pediatrician wasn’t too sure even about the details of what we were discussing. I quickly called genetics at Columbia and got us in for that coming Monday morning.
During that brutal weekend that felt like an eternity of googling and many many tears, I had been talking with my cousin who was a pediatrician herself in Massachusetts about what we had been told. She then ended up discussing our situation with one of her nurse co-workers that Saturday who happened to have previously worked in clinic with Dr. Florian Eichler- an expert in the field for ALD. She offered to put me in contact with him. It ended up being such an amazing coincidence.
Dr. Eichler so generously spoke to me (remember this was a Saturday and I was a stranger who was half talking half crying the whole conversation) and discussed that we would need confirmation testing but that the test was good so to brace myself that my son did in fact have ALD. He also discussed that if confirmed my then four-year-old son would need to be tested as well.
That Monday I decided that I was going to bring my four-year-old with us to that genetics appointment. I knew that I was never going to survive waiting weeks to find out if not only the baby had this but him as well. Thankfully they agreed to draw my older son’s blood also.
One week later it was confirmed that both Kylar and Jalen had ALD. We were devastated. I was already so upset that our sweet new baby likely had this but that not only had Jalen survived the preemie experience but now this. I was grateful for the fact that I already had Dr. Eichler as a contact and we rushed Jalen to Boston where thankfully his MRI of his brain was normal.
We also found out that Jalen my older son has Addison’s (the adrenal insufficiency that commonly occurs with ALD) and requires daily steroids as well as stress dosing and at four months that our sweet baby Kylar also already has impaired adrenal function however not to the extent of his brother yet.
So as crazy as all this has been finding out when you have a brand new baby that both your children have a rare life threatening disease-it’s not been lost on us just how lucky we are that all the pieces to this puzzle have lined up just right to save our boys. If we hadn’t had a second child or in NY we never would have known about either boy and certainly would have been much worse off. ALD being on newborn screen in NY state wasn’t initiated until one year after Jalen was born so he had just missed or if they were born in our own state we reside in of NJ we wouldn’t have known either. We also are so lucky that Jalen never went into an adrenal crisis as that can be life threatening as well.
We try our best to live our lives full of love for our boys and ensure their happiness. As a mom it’s hard not to always worry but we try to keep our focus on the positives and how if this had to happen just how lucky we are.
Hope and knowledge should not be provided on a state by state basis. I’m thrilled for the Waterman family that they delivered their children in NY and have the knowledge they need to provide the best opportunities for their boys, BUT what about the boys born in another state?
If the Waterman boys had been born in NJ (which is not yet testing for ALD – hopefully by the end of 2018), the first time the Watermans would have heard the word Adrenoleukodystrophy would have been in the middle of a crisis – perhaps too late to do anything to help their beautiful boys.
More proof that Newborn Screening for ALD needs to happen everywhere! Wonder where the US is in the process of adding ALD to Newborn Screening?
Thank you Kelly for sharing your family’s story and I look forward to meeting you tomorrow!!