Mary Bridge doctors solve mystery to save boy's life
For three months, he’d been sick with a headaches and a continuous fever. At one point he had received antibiotics for strep throat, but as soon as the antibiotics ended, his condition deteriorated.
Isaac’s mom, Chelsea, took him to a hospital near their home on the Kitsap Peninsula.
“We told them the whole case history, everything that was going on,” Chelsea said. “They gave him a shot of steroids and sent him home. Isaac went to bed on a Friday night, and on Saturday we couldn’t get him to wake up.”
Chelsea was worried, so she took him back to the same hospital.
“They told us nothing was wrong,” Chelsea said. “They told us to come back when it’s worse. He’s not conscious, he’s not eating, he’s had a fever for three months. The only thing that would be worse would be dead.”
That’s when Isaac had a 15-minute seizure in front of the medical staff.
Chelsea demanded that Isaac be taken to Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital in Tacoma, Wash.
“If we would have gone home that night, I’m pretty positive that Isaac wouldn’t have survived,” Chelsea said. “Within an hour of being at Mary Bridge, they did a spinal tap and MRI and found out what was wrong.”
Turns out, Isaac had a rare and serious case of herpes simplex encephalitis, caused by the cold sore virus. Untreated, herpes simplex encephalitis results in rapid death in about 70 percent of cases. Isaac had been sick for three months.
“I was so relieved to be in a place that was listening to us, not just ignoring us and sending us home,” Chelsea said. “The only reason he’s alive is because those antibiotics were holding the encephalitis at bay until we could get to Mary Bridge and they could figure out what was going on.”
Isaac was unconscious for two weeks while his body fought to survive. Even with treatment, herpes simplex encephalitis is still fatal in one-third of cases, and survivors often suffer severe neurological damage.
“They couldn’t promise me that he was going to live,” Chelsea said. “They couldn’t promise me that he was going to be OK. But he came out of it. He has epilepsy now, but it’s better than not being here at all.”
This fall, 10-year-old Isaac started the fifth grade.
“I fully believe that if we hadn't gotten there when we did, or if we had stayed at our local hospital, my son wouldn't be with us today,” Chelsea said. “In the past four years, we have continued to see the doctors at Mary Bridge and each one is amazing and has contributed so much to Isaac's continued care. Dr. Jacqui Hrivnak, Dr. Bisher Abdullah and Dr. Katrina Rayls are three of Isaac’s doctors and we really couldn't ask for a better team.”
Isaac returns to Mary Bridge a few times a month for appointments, and twice a year for EEGs.
“Now I won’t go anywhere else,” Chelsea said. “If Isaac has to go in an ambulance, I tell them to go to Mary Bridge. I would choose Mary Bridge, hands down, every time. Your doctors are better, your food is better, just the whole feel of the place is awesome.”
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