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A rough start leads to a smoother road ahead…

"It's going to be a long and bumpy road ahead, but we'll get better." Zailyn Byrd

On December 30, 2012, just over a year after the Severe Combined Immune Deficiency (SCID) screenings were adopted in Connecticut, LaShelle gave birth to her third child, a son named Zailyn. It was a normal birth and as is routine in Connecticut, Zailyn’s nurse applied a few drops of his blood to a piece of filter paper before he was discharged from the hospital. A few days later, LaShelle’s pediatrician called her with alarming news. Zailyn tested positive for SCID and needed to be evaluated immediately by a pediatric immunologist

The next morning Zailyn visited Neil Romberg, MD, director of the Pediatric Primary Immune Deficiency Center at Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital (YNHCH). During the initial visit, Dr. Romberg diagnosed Zailyn using sophisticated blood testing only available at a few specialized medical centers in the country, including YNHCH.

Over the months that followed, Dr. Romberg arranged a series of therapies designed to protect Zailyn from infections. LaShelle recalls how attentive Dr. Romberg was to Zailyn, always seeing him right away and taking the extra time to answer all her questions. During one of her initial visits, Dr. Romberg told her “It’s going to be a long and bumpy road ahead, but we’ll get him better.”

Knowing that Zailyn would need a bone marrow transplant, Dr. Romberg introduced LaShelle and Zailyn to Deborah Chirnomas, MD, director of YNHCH Pediatric Bone Marrow Transplant Program. To prepare him for a bone marrow transplant, Dr. Chirnomas arranged for Zailyn to have a portacath and a broviac surgically inserted into his chest. These devices are connected to a central vein and allow for the quick administration of drugs in case of an emergency, and for blood samples to be taken.

“This was a really tough time for our whole family – seeing Zailyn in that condition,” recalled LaShelle. “But, we held onto the words of Dr. Romberg, tried to remain strong and believed that Zailyn would get better.”

Zailyn underwent a short stint of chemotherapy to remove his poorly functioning immune system. With the port and broviac in place and chemotherapy behind him, Zailyn was ready for his bone marrow transplant.

On April 30, 2013, when Zailyn was four months old, Dr. Chirnomas infused bone marrow cells donated by a healthy volunteer into Zailyn’s bloodstream. These cells would, with time, become Zailyn’s new immune system.

Following the transplant, Zailyn remained in the hospital for three months and after discharge, visited the physicians at YNHCH weekly for the following seven months.

Today, Zailyn is a happy, playful 2-year-old and is doing very well with his new immune system. He has recovered from his SCID diagnosis and bone marrow transplant and still visits YNHCH for periodic check-ups.

“I can’t say enough about the support I received from the doctors and staff at YNHCH,” said LaShelle. “Some of my absolute best support came from staff in the Bone Marrow Transplant Program and the YNHCH Primary Immune Deficiency Center.

“Looking back on Zailyn’s first year of life, I sometimes wonder how we made it through,” commented LaShelle. “I am so grateful that everything turned out so well for him. Thanks to the skill, expertise and support of his caregivers at YNHCH and his family, my baby is doing great!”