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Author Archives: Angela Waits
Family Stories – Rachel G.
My name is Rachel. I am 40 years old and have propionic acidemia. I live with my mom and dad. Three days of the week I work at a work center for the disabled and on 2 days I go to work at the Painted Turtle. I love both my jobs but the Painted Turtle is my favorite. I get to paint and do other artwork that is sold to the public.
I love to read and go on my computer. I attend events at my local Special Recreation Program. We go bowling, have dances and attend plays.
My favorite vacations are at Disney World and the Disney Cruises. Disney is very good about helping me with my special diet.
In Loving Memory of Teegan
Sam was born a week and 4 days late. Everything about his birth was perfectly normal unlike his older brother. I had the birth I wanted; he was breastfeeding well. For 3 days, life was perfect. Then, we got the phone call. His newborn screen had elevated C3. He had to go to the ER immediately. He did not have any symptoms at this point, so we assumed it was probably just a precaution. The tests at the ER showed elevated ammonia, hypoglycemia, and elevated ketones. He was then admitted to the Children’s hospital. After 5 days, we had the diagnosis of PA. He was discharged and stayed out of the hospital until 7 months old. From 7 months to 18 months, he was hospitalized 9 times for illnesses, exhaustion, and constipation. Most visits were only for a couple of days. After 2 rough hospitalizations, Sam was terrified of any female other than me (we assume because most nurses and phlebotomists were female). That’s when we decided to have a gtube placed. It was the best decision we ever made. He is now 3 and has not been hospitalized since the gtube surgery. Thanks to the newborn screen, he has never had a crisis. He is where he should be cognitively. Physically, he has hypotonia. He had to have therapy to help him learn to crawl and walk, but he still managed to walk by 18 months. In addition to the hypotonia, his energy levels are noticeably less than kids his age. During his yearly heart exam, he was found to have some signs pointing to future development of cardiomyopathy. It is too early to do anything about it so for now, we are just monitoring that.
Overall, Sam is a happy and thriving 3 year old. He is all boy and loves guns and superheroes. At the same time, he can be very sweet and loving. He also loves to eat especially chips and anything fried! We are so thankful for him and for all the doctors and friends who have helped us through our journey so far. Sam is only doing well because of our PA community and his wonderful metabolic doctor. No matter what the future holds for him we will continue to trust God and rely on him to get us through the tough times.
That’s Sam’s story. Thanks for all you guys do to help with PA.
Christian M. – updated Febrary 2019
Christian, also known as CJ, is a fun loving five year old. He loves to listen to music, dance, and sing. His favorite activities include playing with his sister and watching YouTube videos. Christian is in full day kindergarten and loves socializing with his friends. Christian joined Yoga Club at school and he participates in gymnastics, tennis, magic classes, and horseback riding through the park district. He loves to travel and his favorite place to visit is the Great Smoky Mountains.
Christian’s older sister was diagnosed with Propionic Acidemia through the newborn prescreening, therefore we had a crisis management plan put in place for his birth. Within 48 hours of his birth, we received his diagnosis of PA. Currently, Christian eats 11 grams of protein, drinks Propimex-2, and take vitamins daily. We always seem to end up in the hospital during flu season, but other than that Christian has been a very happy and healthy little boy meeting all of his milestones.
Past story – Christian – age 3
Christian, also known as CJ, is a three year old dancing machine. He loves to listen to music and have dance parties in our kitchen and basement. He is the life of the party and always making people smile. CJ attend preschool twice a week and is also involved in soccer and gymnastics. At home, he loves to follow his older sister around and try to play whatever she is playing. His superhero toys are often battling Barbies. Like most other three year olds, CJ loves cars, trucks, and his favorite television show is Paw Patrol.
Maya M. – updated February 2019
Maya is a nine-year old sweetheart. She loves watching YouTube videos and making her own videos for her MayaTV channel. Maya loves to make slime and listen to music on her iPod. She also likes traveling and going on vacation with her family. Maya is in third grade and loves reading, writing in cursive, and solving multiplication problems. She joined her Service Learning Club at school and participates in gymnastics, magic classes, tennis, drama, and horseback riding through the park district.
Maya was diagnosed with Propionic Acidemia after coming home from the hospital. We were fortunate to have a quick diagnosis through the newborn prescreening and avoided any metabolic crisis. Maya consumes 13 grams of protein by mouth daily. She drinks Propimex-2 and takes vitamins. Overall, Maya is a happy and healthy little girl who makes everyone smile with her humorous personality.
Maya – 7 years old
Maya is a seven year old, energetic, and hilarious little girl. She is currently in first grade where her favorite subjects are computer class and gym class. Maya loves to travel. Her favorite travel locations are anything involving a beach and sunshine. She spends basically her whole summer at her grandparents’ Yogi Bear campground. She loves “driving the golf cart”, swimming, fishing, and trying to catch frogs. Maya loves to try all activities. She has been involved in ballet, hip hop and tap classes. She has been in Lego club, Mad Scientist club, Cooking club, and Art club. She has also tried gymnastics and theater. Maya’s favorite hobbies include making videos of herself and playing with all of her baby dolls.
Maya was diagnosed with Propionic Acidemia through her newborn prescreening. With early detection, we were able to avoid any major crisis. Currently Maya consumes 13 grams of protein by mouth and drinks Propimex-2 daily. She is not a big fan of all her doctor’s appointments, but understands she needs them to stay healthy.
Scarlett Camille 4/5/2006-11/21/09
The most wonderful thing in the world happened on April 5th, 2006 … you were born….Scarlett Camille.
Since then life was changed forever in a very special way!
There’s so many things you brought to my life, endless wonders, incredible sweetness, such a tiny little miracle child, unforgettable moments, joy that grew and grew, more love than you could ever dream possible!
I will never forget your strength and courage, and I will be forever proud to have had such a darling daughter.
Although your time here was short, you filled my heart with a lifetime of memories.
What a treasure, a touch of heaven here on earth.
Mommy’s little angel…
Awaiting the touch of a little hand and a smile from a little face.
Love you Bunny Bunny Bunny*
Reprinted from Autumn 2010 Newsletter
Article from Spring 2013 Newsletter
When people ask me about my brother it’s impossible NOT to smile. He is such an amazing person! He’s friendly, strong, funny and has an infectious laugh. Reuben is completely comfortable being himself. He doesn’t judge others and has the purest soul I’ve ever met. It doesn’t bother me that he can’t drive, that sometimes I have to “translate” what he’s saying to others, or that everything in his world is related to a sport’s team- that’s “Rube”, my baby brother and my best friend.
I remember the day he was born very clearly, I was five years old and I was nervous, very anxious to meet what I thought would be a little sister. I remember being ushered into the room with my grandparents and my mama had the bow on the newborn cap covered up with her hand and then FINALLY she unveiled it and my life was forever changed- Reuben Wade Kleckley was born March 22nd, 1984. He was named after four generations of Kleckley men and I’m sure my parents had dreams of him playing professional baseball like my daddy and granddaddy did, but God had bigger plans for him.
When Reuben was two days old, he became very ill. He was having seizures and went into a coma- and the doctors really couldn’t tell my parents why this was happening or what was wrong. No one had any answers and I remember it was a very confusing time for me because what was a happy occasion quickly became a scary time for our family. Once he was moved to ICU, I wasn’t allowed to see him because no children were allowed, and that was hard because as a new big sister that’s all I wanted to do. After a few days, the nurses and my mom got together and broke the rules- dressing me in scrubs from head to toe so that I could hold him. I remember his baptism and watching him being baptized in ICU with my baptismal gown on, wires all over and a specimen cup taped to side of his head so he wouldn’t pull out his IV again- he was such a pitiful little sight. When Reuben was about a week old, he was flown to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore and was diagnosed with Propionic Acidemia, at the time there were only about 75 cases in the country so the doctors really didn’t give my parents a lot of hope. Most children didn’t live past infancy and those who did, typically had significant developmental delays. The latter proved true for Reuben.
As a child, in those first years I don’t think I really noticed that he had global delays- not walking until he was two or using phrases until he was four. It never dawned on me that he wasn’t doing things like other toddlers, I was just happy he was with us since there were so many times he almost wasn’t. I think we were more focused on his health with surgeries and trips to Duke to see specialists than any delays. I know my parents knew early on that he was going to have challenges, but it took me awhile before I noticed he was different. I remember the questions from friends and family and sometimes the stares when we would go out in public- it made me angry as a child, but it never made me angry at Reuben, it made me angry at the ignorance or other people. The only thing that bothered me about growing up with a special needs brother was that it was very isolating, I didn’t know anyone else like me and I didn’t have any friends who understood. I had no one to talk to about it. My parents would try, but I was afraid of feeling or saying anything that might hurt them or make them worry.
I think the question I get asked most often is, “Do you ever wish your brother was normal?” Sometimes people are shocked when I say “no”. I mean, what is “normal”? I think about how happy Reuben is, how much he enjoys the simple things in life and how, at 28, he is completely unaware of the negativity in this world. He’s had a lot of struggles, but he’s had so many more positive experiences! Having a sibling with special needs is not something you wish for and it’s not always easy, but Reuben has given us so much more than we could ever hope to give him. Christmas mornings are still exciting, watching him sing “Victory in Jesus” always brings tears to my eyes and it’s because of him that I’ve dedicated my professional career to working with children with special needs.
For a long time I’d heard “you’re so good with Reuben”… so, my family wasn’t surprised when I changed majors my junior year at USC, to work with children with disabilities. Once I met my first child with autism, I was officially hooked. I became an Early Interventionist after graduating in 2003 and in November, 2011, I partnered with a colleague to form Carolina Behavior & Beyond. Our company provides early intervention services to children with disabilities and developmental delays, mainly serving children from birth to age five. I love what I do and it’s truly amazing to see a child develop and transform before my very eyes. I found my purpose in life and I know without a doubt, I have Reuben to thank for that. He’s taught me that being different is not the end of the world, that there is wealth in every life if you have the heart to find it, and that you don’t have to be in the big leagues to pitch a no-hitter.
|Gwen M. – updated May 2015|
|My beautiful girl just turned 9 years old this year and it seems nothing short of a miracle. At 2 days of age, Gwen became catastrophically ill, her body temperature dropped below 90 degrees, ammonia level exceeded 1,500 umol/L and she stopped breathing. She was placed on a ventilator and received peritoneal dialysis for a couple of days until she came out of her coma and was breathing on her own. On her 3rd day she was diagnosed Propionic Acidemia and her future was very uncertain. During Gwen’s first 3 years of life she spent as much time in the hospital as she did at home. Although she’s been admitted more than 50 times, she’s undoubtedly one of the happiest people on Earth. At age 1 she stopped eating by mouth, and since then she’s been fed 100% by a feeding tube because she refuses to eat anything. For many years she wore a backpack to carry her feeding pump, but she is now able to tolerate her formula through small bolus feedings and has a nurse who cares for her during the day.Gwen knows she’s very cute and she plays that to her advantage. What she does not yet know is that she’s very brave, has an endless capacity to forgive, an amazing will to live, and a beautiful spirit from God that has touched the lives of hundreds. She talks non-stop, sings the entire time we’re in the car, jumps off of anything she can climb on, loves to dance, play with her American Girl dolls and spend time with her brother and friends. She’s in second grade and receives special education services for PT, OT, math and reading. She’s also in Brownies and on the Special Olympics swim team! She is a miracle, a daily blessing, and a ray of sunshine in any room. I am grateful for every day I have with her and so proud to be her mom.
Gwendolyn Grace M. was born at 3:33 p.m. on February 3, 2006. She will soon be only 5 months old, but has already brought a lot of drama to our lives! She was diagnosed at 3 days of age with Propionic Acidemia. At 2 days of life we found ourselves at Columbus Children’s Hospital emergency room only hours after being discharged from the hospital of her birth. We were quickly transferred to the NICU, where we spent the next 2 weeks. That first night at Children’s, her ammonia level reached over 1,500 & she had stopped breathing. The fantastic medical staff acted very quickly. Gwen was intubated & put on dialysis. We nearly lost her a couple of times during that stay, but she pulled through. She ended up having another episode less than 2 weeks after being discharged. Once again, she pulled through magnificently. We have quickly learned the fragile nature of good health, the strength of a family, along with the amazing power of prayer. My baby girl is nearly 4 months old & seems to be beating all the odds. Despite her rough beginning, she is meeting all her early milestones. Gwen has an awesome fun club, including her brother, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, doctors, nurses, teachers, & friends. We are so grateful for their love & support. Check out our new web-site with even more pictures – Click Here.
Gwen’s 1st B-day!!!!
Dylan J | Propionic Acidemia | Age 2 1/2
Dylan J was born on October 12th, 2013 in Waconia, Minnesota, weighing in at 8 pounds, 2 ounces. After Dylan was born, the doctors noticed that he had a lower than average body temperature, so they brought him back to the nursery to warm him up. He was brought back to us, and from there on out for two days, we experienced a normal, healthy little boy, or so we thought.
In the early morning hours on October 15th, only 15 hours since we had been discharged from the hospital as a family of 3, Dylan was acting kind of strange. He was very sleepy, and seemed cold to the touch. My husband, Adam, and I took his temperature and he was at 95 degrees. Knowing that wasn’t normal, I called my sister- in- law, who is a NICU nurse here in the cities, and she told us to try doing skin-on-skin to warm him up, and if that didn’t work, to probably call the on-call pediatrician. Much to our dismay, an hour passed and he hadn’t warmed up at all, even after everything we had tried. I called the on-call pediatrician and he told us to watch him over the next several hours, if he was still cold and was still very lethargic and didn’t want to eat, we could wait to bring him to the pediatrician office that opened at 8am that morning, or we could bring him to the emergency room. About an hour later, my husband picked Dylan up to bring him to me to try and feed, and his arms fell limply behind his body. It’s an image that is burned into my mind. We knew at that moment something was wrong, so we packed him up in his car seat and drove him to the emergency room. Once there, they looked him over, and told us that since babies can’t tell us what’s wrong, they would need to do many blood tests and a spinal tap to narrow down what was going on. I remember the ER doctor telling us it was hard to watch little babies get pricked so he told us to go wait in another room (little did I know I would witness far more worse that these pokes in Dylan’s life to come). Dylan’s breathing also started to become extremely labored, he was really trying hard to get each breath in and out. I don’t remember how long we were in the room, but I do remember the doctor coming and telling my husband and I, they didn’t have any results back yet, but they believed he needed to be transferred to a Children’s hospital in downtown Minneapolis, to put him on a ventilator, because he was getting too exhausted from working so hard to breathe. He left the room, and I lost it, a ventilator, for my little baby? What was wrong? Later the doctor came back and said, he actually believed they might be able to just try oxygen, so they were transferring him upstairs, to their NICU, to see if we could get it under control.
It was then, that the waiting game began. They did multiple blood tests, at one point coming to the conclusion that he was just dehydrated. His blood sugar was very low, and they believed he just hadn’t eaten enough. Hours passed by, and we were waiting for the neonatologist that did his rounds around the more suburban hospitals, to arrive and look at Dylan. Around lunch time, the doctor came in and looked at him and told us he believed Dylan still needed to be transferred to the Children’s hospital to be put on a ventilator because the oxygen itself was not cutting it. As he was telling us this, a nurse walked in, handed him a piece of paper, to which he looked at, replied “oh my gosh”, and left the room. We were freaked out, but didn’t think too much of it. Minutes later he came back in and told us that Dylan’s ammonia level was 900. He looked at our very confused faces and told us that this was very, very serious, that the normal range was 10-35, and that Dylan may not make it. I remember being numb, to the idea that my brand new baby could die, when an hour earlier we had just thought he was dehydrated. The doctor left to set up an ambulance to take Dylan, not to the Children’s hospital anymore, but to the University of Minnesota Children’s hospital, because he needed special treatment, only available at the University. He needed to be placed on Dialysis.
I rode in the ambulance with Dylan, and those were the longest 45 minutes of my life. I remember thinking he was going to die in the ambulance, that there was nothing I could do, I just had to sit up in the front seat and pray. Once we arrived at the hospital, it was like a scene out of a movie, all these doctors swarmed us, telling me they’d been waiting, explaining what was going on, needing me to sign consent forms to start dialysis. Telling me that doing dialysis on a 3 day old baby was very risky, but what other choice did we have? By the time we arrived at the hospital his ammonia had climbed to 1200. My husband and I, and our families, were ushered into the family waiting room where we waited to hear word on Dylan. It was at this time we were introduced to our metabolic doctor. She came and met with us and described what she believed Dylan had. A rare genetic disorder, where he could not break down protein correctly, and instead of breaking it down, he would only break down to a certain point and then the bad things (propionic acid and ammonia), would back up in his system. With it being as high as it was, it was poisoning his organs. They told us they believed his brain was swollen and they couldn’t be sure what brain damage he had received from the high ammonia, they would take ultrasounds and an MRI, which both came out fairly good, but really time would tell.
Many hours later, dialysis began, and a nurse came in, and said the words, I will never forget “I know this has been the worst day of your life, but I wanted to give you some good news, Dylan’s ammonia is 90”! As fast as he got sick, he got better just as quickly. They were able to rush Dylan’s newborn screening results and that confirmed his diagnosis of Propionic Acidemia. The doctors now had a diagnosis and were able to treat him. As the days passed in the ICU, his ammonia stabilized, they were able to start him on a low protein diet of Propimex and breast milk, and he did really well. We were able to go home after just 7 days in the ICU.
Life with Dylan after that seemed to go very well, and to us was “normal”. He was a good eater, always ate the amount of protein and calories he needed to get in a day and was developing normally. I would check his ketones in his urine daily (our doctors thought I was a little crazy for checking so much, but it was my indicator something was off), and they were always negative until he was about 5 months old. Dylan started getting trace to small ketones in his urine almost daily. We would try to push more fluids, but they would still go back up. He was eating all of his bottles very well still and acting completely normal. However, once we saw ketones, we would bring him in to the emergency room and his ammonia would be high, in the 100’s. The scariest part was, he never acted different, never showed signs his ammonia was high, except for the ketones.
After being in and out of the hospital for weeks at a time between February and May, our metabolic doctors decided to start him on Carbaglu, to help keep his ammonia in check. When we were discharged from the hospital in late April after starting Carbaglu, we met for a follow up appointment with our metabolic doctors. It was at this appointment that Dylan’s doctor sat us down and told us she believed Dylan needed a liver transplant. You see, they were never able to tell us for certain if Dylan had a more severe case of PA or not, because after genetic testing was done, it came back that both of his mutations had never been seen before. So we kind of had to wait and see how he did. We were shocked, never had we thought liver transplant would be something we would be discussing for Dylan. My husband and I went home and for a few weeks thought about it, prayed about it, cried about it, researched it, got stories from other parents that had gone through this, and ultimately decided that we didn’t want to wait until another crisis happened to Dylan and he had brain damage or worse, we wanted Dylan to remain Dylan. So on May 8th of this year, when Dylan was 7 months old, we placed Dylan on the transplant list to get a new liver.
On July 24th, we got the call that they had a new liver for Dylan. We dropped what we were doing and raced to the hospital where they did all the pre-surgery prep work, prepared us, and waited for word as to when the organ would be in Minnesota and when surgery would start. On July 26th, the surgery happened. My husband and I walked Dylan down to the pre-op room and handed him over to the transplant team. We were guided to the family waiting room where we waited with our families for 8 very long hours. When the surgeon came out, with a smile on his face, and told us it had gone very well, it was such a relief. We were taken up to the PICU where we were able to see Dylan, and as scared as I was to see him, when we did, he looked so good. Yes, he was hooked up to so many tubes and lines, and he was swollen, but he looked just like our boy. We stayed in the hospital for 18 days as Dylan recovered. His body accepted the new liver very well, and one of the best moments of our lives, was when our metabolic doctor came in and told us that the organic acid tests they had taken on Dylan after surgery had shown he had no propionic acid in his body! What a miracle.
It’s been almost 2 years since Dylan has had his transplant and he is doing fantastic. He’s had a few complications since but he’s gotten through them with flying colors. Dylan will be on anti-rejection medications his whole life. There’s the fear that he may go into rejection at any time, but if caught early enough, it is very treatable. And here in Minnesota, with our doctors, they will keep a very close eye on him. We also don’t have much research on if this liver will last his whole life, or if he would need a new one eventually, but at the same time, we don’t have a ton of data on what PA does to the body long term. Our metabolic doctors are being very cautious with him, they kept him on his metabolic formula just until this last October when we tried to see what his labs did if he went off it and so far he has remained stable. He is still on a restricted protein diet, right now he gets 30-35g a day. The change in him since transplant has been tenfold. Before he had low tone and now his tone is so much better, he runs and climbs just like every other 2 ½ year old when we’re playing at the park! Although it was the toughest decision my husband and I have ever made, this was the right decision for us, we wanted Dylan to lead the best life he could, and even though there were so many risks, and we don’t know 100% what the future will hold, it was worth it, because he is such a happy and very healthy 2 ½ year old little boy!