Quincey Carter was only eight years old when she suddenly began walking abnormally. She was losing strength in her legs for no clear reason. Her parents quizzed her on other symptoms and wondered if she could have been injured somehow but Quincey had no answers for them. Her father, Mark Carter, MD, looked at the situation more closely from his medical perspective, and his concern grew exponentially. Mark describes a journey that included visits to their Chico pediatrician, the emergency room, and then specialty care in Sacramento where a pediatric neurologist diagnosed a neurological illness – Guillain Barré Syndrome (GBS).
Quincey was immediately admitted to the intensive care unit to receive a five-day course of intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG), a plasma-based medicine made from hundreds, perhaps thousands, of plasma donations. The small amounts of essential proteins and antibodies in each plasma donation are pooled together and then specific elements, such as the immune globulins, can be extracted for medicine like IVIG. Quincey showed dramatic improvement over a few days and was able to return home. The whole Carter family breathed a sigh of relief.
Three months later, the symptoms reappeared. Since GBS is typically a one-time presentation, the neurologist re-diagnosed her with chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP). Quincey was readmitted to the hospital for a similar course of IVIG treatment. During this time, Mark heard that sometimes IVIG is in short supply; would it be available for his daughter?
Although Quincey would experience three more relapses and have high-dose steroids added to her treatment regimen, the IVIG needed for her five-day courses of treatment continued to be effective and available.
”There is no other real treatment for Quincey’s disease or other similar neurological diseases,” says Mark. “I don’t want to think about what it may have been like for Quincey had this treatment not been available. I know there are many places in the world where plasma-based medicine isn’t available, and I am so grateful to live in a country where it is an option.”
Setting her own course
It’s been five years since Quincey’s first episode with CIDP, three and a half years since her last episode. “Now that I’m older,” Quincey says,”I understand it better. My immune system attacked my nerves so I received other people’s antibodies to help me fight it.” IVIG contained the essential antibodies that Quincey needed to fight her disease.
Now healthy, strong and gifted with an empathy born of an unexpected trial, Quincey is an athlete, completing the Chico Wildflower century ride (100 miles) in memory of a popular teacher, Jim Retzer, who passed away unexpectedly. She also plays volleyball at her school and recently completed a triathlon with her dad, who is unabashedly proud of his young daughter.
The entire Carter family is grateful to blood donors who provided the essential elements for plasma-based medicine to help Quincey and patients like her. Because of their gifts, Quincey sets her own course at school and on the volleyball court, running trails or biking routes.
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