Ayla of Denver, Colo., was 3 years old when her parents, Jay and Audrey, began noticing multiple bruises on her body. Confused about what could be causing the bruising, they took Ayla to her pediatrician, who ran some blood tests. Jay and Audrey received a call as soon as the test results were in. Ayla’s results were not normal, and they were advised to take their daughter to the nearest children’s hospital.
At the hospital the next day, Ayla was diagnosed with a rare and serious blood disorder: Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP). ITP restricts the body’s ability to stop bleeding by reducing the number of platelets in the blood and fighting off cells that produce the clotting agent. A normal platelet level ranges from 150,000 to 400,000 per microliter of blood. When she was diagnosed, Ayla’s body was producing just 5,000 platelets. The dangerously low level meant her body was unable to control even the smallest cut or bruise.
After diagnosis, Ayla’s parents began keeping a watchful eye on their daughter’s every move. A bump that might not hurt a normal toddler could have life-altering consequences for Ayla. Just five days later, they noticed blood in her urine. They returned to the hospital for what would be a seven-day stay, followed by six months of weekly hospital visits, including three blood transfusions and numerous treatments in an effort to control Ayla’s disease.
In May 2005, the Charness family moved to Denver so Ayla could receive treatment at Children’s Hospital Colorado. “At our first appointment, we knew we had found the right place and the right people to care for our daughter and help our family through the sometimes daunting medical issues we face,” said Jay.
Under the care of a new team of doctors who the family fully trusted, Jay and Audrey could breathe only a temporary sigh of relief. Their journey with ITP was just beginning. During a family vacation to Los Angeles, Ayla experienced nose bleeds off and on before losing consciousness in a restaurant. The nose bleeds were misleading – Ayla was actually bleeding heavily internally and needed back-to-back transfusions.
For the next three years, Ayla, her family and her team of caregivers endured late night emergency room visits, hospital stays and every treatment available to control Ayla’s ITP. When all possibilities were exhausted, her doctors recommended a splenectomy. Removing the spleen, although invasive, was the best option to control her condition.
Ayla is now 10 and her condition is less precarious. She has blossomed into a courageous, patient, mature and empathetic girl who loves school, swimming, dance and playing violin and piano. Ayla continues to receive treatment at Children’s Colorado and must take precautions against injury like wearing a protective helmet at school, but with help from her family, both at home and at Children’s Colorado, Ayla looks forward to a bright future.