Travelling teddy bear visits Vernon River ‘miracle’ toddler
By Jonathan Charlton
When Lincoln Drake was just a few hours old he had a blood transfusion to save his life.
At the time doctors were trying to treat some complications, including him having trouble breathing. Blood tests revealed he had a blood platelet count of just five, a fraction of the normal 150-400 range.
“I had no idea what they were talking about,” his mother Marin MacCallum, of Vernon River, recalls. “I was in complete shock.”
When that didn’t raise his platelet level, he was transferred to the IWK in Halifax for a platelet transfusion and a special type of blood transfusion, known as an IVIG, made from the blood of 1,000 donors.
A few months later, blood test results showed that Ms MacCallum’s own blood was the culprit. Lincoln was diagnosed with Neonatal Alloimmune Thrombocytopenia (NAIT), a blood disorder caused by incompatibility between the mother’s and baby’s blood platelets, itself caused by the incompatibility of Ms MacCallum’s platelets and those of her common-law husband Ryan Drake. This caused Ms MacCallum’s body to produce antibodies targeting her child.
“My body thought he was a cold or a virus.”
Platelets help blood clot, so the condition can leave newborns vulnerable to internal hemorrhaging in the head and abdomen as well as neurological disabilities. It affects about one in 600 Caucasian births, she said.
Luckily, Aiden, now 11 months old, was unharmed. Because of the IVIG he is no longer affected by NAIT.
“He’s a miracle, really, that he was fine and nothing dangerous happened to him.”
The experience led her to turn to the Internet for support.
“(I thought) I need to find somebody else who has this, I can’t be alone.”
She found the website naitbabies.org, with about 150 members including a few Canadians.
She feels NAIT isn’t well known among the general public or even doctors. She said she is the only case her doctor is aware of in Charlottetown.
The group wants more research done on the condition, more common screening for expecting mothers and possibly a vaccine.
Blood platelets are a genetic trait, so Ms MacCallum says siblings and cousins of mothers who experience it should get screened. An IVIG transfusion and early C-section can then prevent problems during pregnancy.
To raise awareness, a member of the group in New Brunswick made two teddy bears, Naithanial and Naitalie, who are travelling to different kids affected by NAIT.
Naithanial is currently making the rounds in the UK while Naitalie has visited a number of Canadian provinces. She stayed with Lincoln last week – and the two got along right off the bat, Ms MacCallum said.
“He loves it. He absolutely loves it. I opened the box and Lincoln crawled right over and gave her a big hug.”
Last Friday, Lincoln’s six-year-old brother Aiden took the bear to school, then Naitalie will travel to another child.