Ten-year-old Liam Larratt went from healthy to critically ill boy over just a few short months — and no one knew what was wrong.
Eventually the diagnosis was aplastic anemia, a rare disease where the body stops producing new blood cells. It’s life-threatening.
Blood transfusions have kept him going, and if a bone marrow stem cell transplant takes place, he could be cured. But there are many ifs for Liam and his family who are now facing the difficulties that come with having a seriously ill child.
Liam’s mother, Evonne Larratt, was by his side at the Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton, when she spoke to the Red Deer Advocate late last week.
“He’s not doing great,” the 38-year-old single-parent of four children said.
Last November they started noticing blood showing under Liam’s skin, a condition know as petechiae. Tests showed his blood platelets were low. A month later they were even lower. Two weeks after that, with more and more petechiae, and even lower platelets, he was transported from Red Deer to the Stollery in critical condition, said Evonne.
When he got there, bone marrow tests led to the aplastic anemia diagnosis in March. The cause of his illness is unknown.
“He’s really sick but he’s really smart so he knows exactly what’s going on,” Evonne said as her son was receiving intensive treatment aimed at stopping cells, known as T cells, from attacking his bone marrow. He is given potent drugs that come with side-effects, such as high blood pressure.
After four days of treatment, Liam was to be in recovery, which could mean 10 more days in hospital.
“If it works, he can go into remission. It doesn’t mean he’s free and clear, it just means he’s in remission,” said Evonne.
If it doesn’t work, the next step for Liam would be a bone marrow transplant. It could cure him, said his mother, but the catch is they will need to find a matching donor.
Already Evonne, and other family members, including Liam’s father and siblings, have been tested but they are not a match. Evonne’s other children include Ethan, 12; Enya, 8; and Euan, 4. The family lives in the Pine Lake area and the children attend school in Delburne. The youngest attends daycare in Delburne.
Evonne is a Sunday school leader at St. Leonard’s On The Hill Anglican Church in Red Deer. People from her church have been tested but they don’t match either. Not everyone can be a bone marrow stem cell donor as there are age and other restrictions.
If the present treatment doesn’t work (they’ll know in within six months), and if he does have a transplant, Liam will be in the Alberta Children’s Hospital for three months.
Liam has had to have blood transfusions twice a week, which meant he and his mother had been travelling back and forth to Edmonton. And once he’s out of hospital for the current treatment, there will be continual travel back and forth.
Evonne works at Turple Brothers in Red Deer and her employer has been “amazing”, she said. But she can only work here and there right now. The financial and practical aspects of the lives have been challenging.
Her church has been helping as much as it can with everything from groceries, to meals, to helping out with gas.
Evonne has a van with 320,000 kms on it that quit working recently so she has borrowed her father’s vehicle to get to Edmonton.
Her mother has dementia and is in a nursing home. Her father, who is retired and is 65, is helping look after the other children while she is away. He gets them off to school and then attends to his ill wife.
“The other kids get pushed more to the side even though that’s not what you want to happen. … It is hard. It’s really difficult to find time for everything because I’m still trying to get my shift in too at work,” said Evonne. “Financially if I didn’t have help from my church, I wouldn’t have been able to make it to (Liam’s) appointments.”
Krista Kusmire, St. Leonard’s church office administrator, and who informed the Advocate of the familiy’s situation, said the church encourages people to give blood and donate marrow. While the donations don’t go directly to Liam, they are what keep people like him alive.
A donation account to help the family out was set up on Friday at Servus Credit Union by two parishioners. The account is called “Evonne and Liam Larratt” and donations can be made at any Servus location in Alberta.
A gofundme.com online fundraiser, Make her Light Shine Brighter, was set up two months ago. It has reached $1,345 of its $5,000 goal.
For more information about donating blood or stem cells in bone marrow go online to Canadian Blood Services at www.blood.ca