Alyssa in 2012. Photo by Jimmy Pozaric, courtesy of Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick
Alyssa is now a happy-go-lucky 10 year old, but her life might not have turned out this way if not for lots of dedicated people and organisations.
In August 2010 at 10 months old, Alyssa became very unwell with fevers and a rash. It was initially thought that these symptoms were due to an infection, but unfortunately was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), needing treatment at Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick (SCH). This brought many concerns for Alyssa’s parents: How would it affect her older sister? Would the treatment be successful? How would they cope with commuting to Randwick?
Alyssa tolerated eight months of chemotherapy at SCH like a trooper. Her family learnt to prioritise quality time and aimed to normalise lifestyle and activities whenever possible. She came home in October 2010, after lots of time in hospital, taking a long time to attain remission.
Classified as a poor responder, there was early talk of a bone marrow transplant. Her 2 year old sister did not have a compatible tissue type, but a search for a suitable unrelated donor found a well matched Australian cord blood. She underwent the cord blood transplant in April 2011. These were scary times for the family. The first three weeks were very difficult; Alyssa endured constant fevers, painful mouth ulcers and didn’t want to feed. She needed multiple blood and platelet transfusions.
She was discharged to the on-campus Ronald McDonald House accommodation 48 days after the transplant. There were more rocky times after the transplant, needing another two hospital admissions within 3 months of the transplant.
Due to the treatment Alyssa is short for her age, but she is good academically, does dance classes five days a week and is a testament to the life-saving capacity of cord blood transplant.