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Upper West Side family raising money for sick son, Idan, years after father had his own brush with death

NY Daily PostIdan’s story was featured today in the NY Daily News in a wonderful article written by Beth Stebner. Here are some highlights:

“Amanda and Akiva Zablocki, who live in Manhattan’s upper West Side, are trying to raise money to cover the medical costs for their infant son, Idan, who was born with a rare immune disorder. Years before, Akiva, 33, underwent a life-threatening brain surgery.”

For one upper West Side family, New York is a dangerous minefield of germs and disease, where trips on the subway are out of the question, and bath time calls for bottled water.

Amanda and Akiva Zablocki must take these precautions for their little son Idan, who was born not even a year ago with a two-in-a-million genetic disorder that ravages his immune system and makes a normal childhood all but impossible.

The two got engaged in Dec. 2008 and were married in 2009 in a Long Island synagogue. Little Idan followed three years later.

Amanda, 28, told the Daily News that everything was wonderful with their son for the first eight months, but soon after that, his breathing became irregular and rapid. “We rushed him to the ER one time, and he was diagnosed with PCP pneumonia, which was made famous in the AIDS era in the 80s,” she explained.

Amanda, Akiva, and Idan Zablocki traveled to North Carolina earlier this month to visit with physicians at Duke, who say that the child needs a stem cell transplant, a costly and dangerous operation.

COURTESY OF ZABLOCKI FAMILY

Left to right: Idan, Akiva and Amanda Zablocki traveled to North Carolina earlier this month to visit with physicians at Duke, who say that the child needs a stem cell transplant, a costly and dangerous operation. The father, Akiva, has battled health demons, too. He wears an eye patch after a brain tumor surgery left him with double vision.

Idan — whose name means 'Era' in Hebrew — spent three weeks in the hospital after his birth. He turns 1 in July.

COURTESY OF ZABLOCKI FAMILY

Idan — whose name means ‘Era’ in Hebrew — spent three weeks in the hospital after his birth. He turns 1 in July.

“It only causes pneumonia in people without healthy immune systems.” Idan was tested for AIDS, but was eventually diagnosed with Hyper IgM. The genetic disorder affects only two in a million.

Living in New York City with a child who cannot be exposed to germs presents its own unique challenges.

“There’s pros and cons,” the mother said. “You’re very close to the hospital and your pediatrician. But we can’t take him on the train, we can’t take him on the bus. I never touch the subway pole, and we have to Lysol everything.”

Most difficult, she added, was that he cannot be around other children, go to day care, or even meet his many cousins for fear of getting sick. Even other children with the sniffles could send him straight to the emergency room. “It’s very difficult for us,” she said.

Amanda and Akiva Zablocki, a couple living on the upper West Side, are fighting to raise $250,000 to cover their son Idan’s massive medical bills. Their only son was born with a rare genetic condition that makes his immune system extremely weak.

Read more on the NY Daily News. 

 

National IDF (Immune Deficiency Foundation) conference

945278_10100734987086782_1867492044_nJune 28: Greetings from Baltimore! We are in the second leg of our journey to find a cure for Idan. We are in Baltimore attending the national IDF (Immune Deficiency Foundation) conference, along with more than 1,000 other patients and caregivers diagnosed with an immune deficiency and over 30 professionals who have experience treating such diseases.

Among the 1,000 patients and caregivers, it seems there are about four families affected by some form of Hyper IgM here (yes, there are several classes of Hyper IgM). We had an opportunity to meet them, and shake the hand of one of the oldest Hyper IgM patients in history – he just turned 40 – which brought tears to our eyes.

We also spoke to several doctors. We had a very long conversation with a doctor in Chicago performing transplants for Hyper IgM patients, as well as a doctor in Seattle who is an immunologist that works closely with the transplant team. Both had yet another different technique for transplant, and we now have even more options to choose from. Seattle, which was not at the top of our list, has moved directly into our radar and we are considering speaking to their transplant team.

We have learned some new facts along the way, including that Idan has the most severe form of Hyper IgM based on the fact that he has no CD40L function. Apparently there are those that have some function to their CD40L (the cell that allows the T-Cells and the B-Cells to communicate with each other), and in those cases the clinical effects of the Hyper IgM can be milder. Idan, however, has zero CD40L, so his Hyper IgM is more severe. That said, there seems to be a concensus that, with the bactrim and immunoglobulin therapy he is taking and the other precautions we are taking to keep him away from germs, he is likely well protected until transplant.

We have one more day of the conference left. We’ll post another update if we learn anything new tomorrow.

Love to all,

Amanda, Akiva & Idan

Update from Duke

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June 22: Thank you for your warm wishes for our trip to Duke, the first of many trips to hospitals around the country. The trip was well worth it as we learned a lot and we now have a good option for transplant (if we can figure out how to relocate to North Carolina for six months of course). Here is a brief summary of our Duke trip and why we have decided, among other things, to change our goal.Our first and perhaps harshest lesson is that, for a baby Idan’s age and with his disorder, a stem cell transplant poses a 10 to 15% chance of death. Why transplant at all then, you ask? Well, after speaking with Dr. Buckley who has been following many Hyper IgM patients from birth, some until their third and fourth decades of life, the risk of death increases exponentially as Idan gets older and is exposed to more potentially fatal opportunistic infections and most certainly malignant cancers. A 10-15% mortality rate for stem cell transplant begins to look pretty good all things considered, and has the potential to be curative. The key now is to determine how to reduce that risk to the greatest extent possible, and how to make sure that we do this once and we do it right.So, we have heard how Duke plans to reduce this risk. The risk comes from three sources: infections, adverse reaction to chemo, and graft versus host disease. Duke recommends using a lower dose of chemo, certain prophylactic medications, and bone marrow as opposed to peripheral blood or cord blood. Each of these steps will help to reduce the risk of mortality, and also increase the chance Idan will accept the transplant.

Importantly, Dr. Buckley, who has seen Hyper IgM patients for the past 40 years and has seen the entire spectrum of how these individuals were affected by the disorder, both for those who opted for transplant and those for whom transplant was not an option, recommends this: Do the transplant as soon as you can with the institution that has the most experience. Idan is the “picture of health” right now, and thus has the best chance of survival and CURE.

So we have only started our journey, but agree that we need to do this once and do it right. This means visiting all the experts and hearing how they plan on reducing the risk. If it were your child, wouldn’t you go to the end of the earth, too?

Now, for our goal. According to materials provided by Duke, the average cost for families across the country to undergo a transplant is approximately $650,000 for the first year. We hope this is a high estimate in our case, where we have insurance that will cover a large portion of the medical expenses of transplant. However, our insurance does not cover IVIG, a very costly treatment Idan will need frequently for the year during and post transplant. Because this is not covered, we will likely need to pay for private insurance, but we understand there is no guarantee we will be able to purchase insurance in such a short time frame that also covers IVIG and also does not charge us a very high premium because of Idan’s condition. Regardless, we have estimated our expenses to range from $250,000 to $350,000, which is why we’ve raised our goal. We have not included in our goal the other non-medical expenses such as the visits to doctors across the country, loss of income for six months or more, and relocating expenses.

We hope you will continue to share Idan’s story, email your contact lists, and post on your facebook pages and twitter so that we may meet our goal, and, more importantly, be connected with any other experts (be they doctors or researchers) that can help us reduce Idan’s risk so that we can do this once and do it right.

Love and best wishes to all,

Akiva, Amanda & Idan

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After a long drive down to Duke, a long day with doctors, and another long drive after, Idan gets his first beach visit for a few minutes before we head back to NYC. I think he liked it.

 

Getting ready for a trip to Duke

photo (3)June 9th Update: dan update: We saw the pulmonologist last week and he believes Idan’s lungs are doing very well and should be strong enough for transplant. This is great news, and should allow us to move forward quickly once we choose a doctor/hospital. We are getting ready for a trip to Duke to visit one of the expert transplant doctors for Hyper IgM and other immune deficiencies. Wish us luck!

Fundraising update: With your help, we’ve raised almost $40,000 – nearly half of our goal – in only a few days! Idan’s story has been read by over 1,000 people, 261 generously donated, and hundreds more have shared Idan’s story through Facebook, email, and Twitter! Through your efforts, we’ve even been put in touch with another doctor who has performed a successful Hyper IgM transplant. Thank you so much!

Idan’s Story goes public on Facebook

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You all know our son Idan, and many of you have followed his adventures on Facebook. Idan now needs your help! Last month, after a 21 day stay in the ICU, Idan was diagnosed with Hyper IgM, a very rare life-threatening genetic disorder that plagues his immune system. We need your help, so he can live a full, long and healthy life: Please see here:https://www.youcaring.com/fundraiseforidan and feel free to Like, Share and pass along. More details and updates to follow. See here for original Facebook post.

How we got here: Idan’s Story

969070_10100769864402362_917188301_n\How we got here: Idan’s Story

Last July, we stood in front of a crowded room and introduced our baby boy to the world.  We spoke of the long journey that we took to get to this moment in our lives.  Akiva’s quest to find a brain surgeon willing to and capable of operating on his brain stem to remove a tumor threatening his life, and unleashing the superhero within.  Amanda’s pursuit of her childhood dreams.  Our love story.  And now, Idan.  A child born to parents who could not be more grateful, more blessed, more thrilled to begin this new journey as a family.  Hence Idan’s name.  Idan is Hebrew for “time,” or “era.”  We knew our little guy would be unusually strong, and we wanted him to have an equally strong name.  What could be stronger and more precious than time? 

Nearly a year later, Idan has proved us right.  He is precious, uniquely strong, extremely brave, and has began his own journey. Idan has been diagnosed with a very rare and life-threatening immune deficiency disorder that affects only 2 in 1,000,000 people.  This is his story, and how you can help. 

In April, Idan started breathing very quickly.  There were no other symptoms to cause alarm.  He played, ate, and seemed perfectly normal, except for his respiratory rate. We went back and forth to the doctor, everyone believing it was a sneaky virus that would take its course and go away.  When two weeks passed and Idan began looking fatigued, we took him back to the pediatrician for a second x-ray.  We were rushed to the hospital, and Idan was taken to the pediatric ICU to be given oxygen.  He was hospitalized for several days before we found out the culprit, a very rare form of pneumonia caused by the most common of fungus that lives in nearly all of us – PCP.  It wreaked havoc on his baby lungs, and he had to be placed on a ventilator for 13 days to help him breathe.  The doctors busily ran tests to determine why he developed PCP, a condition that usually affects those without an immune system.  But he was our healthy 8 month old boy, right?

We soon discovered he had a severe immune deficiency, which made him uniquely susceptible to this aggressive fungus that threatened to take his life.  We stood by his bedside, for 21 days, wearing gowns, masks and gloves, unable to hold, kiss, or even touch him.  Despite all that, and despite tubes invading every inch of his body, Idan courageously found strength to smile, even to laugh.  We stood by his bed and read to him, sang to him, danced for him, and deep down, we knew that he was the one comforting us the entire time.  His smiles and intuitive stares, ones which belonged to a much older adult, not a child, told us he was strong and going to survive the PCP and conquer his immune deficiency.  After three excruciatingly long weeks, Idan’s lungs finally recovered.  He regained his strength and was discharged from the hospital.  

Idan came home and resumed many of his normal routines, and you would never know he spent weeks in the hospital fighting for his life.  But after Idan was discharged from the hospital, we faced a new challenge – diagnosing the underlying problem with his immune system that made him uniquely susceptible to the fungus that causes PCP.  It was not long before Idan was diagnosed with Hyper IgM, an extremely rare and life-threatening genetic primary immune deficiency disorder where the immune system fails to fight against even the most harmless of germs – hence the PCP.  We have no family history of the disease and never saw it coming.

Today, we are treating Idan’s Hyper IgM with regular weekly infusions of immunoglobulin replacement therapy and antibiotics to prevent reoccurrences of the PCP.  This will protect him from the majority of infections, bacteria and viruses, but cannot protect him against everything.  To date, most individuals with Hyper IgM have not survived past their third decade of life, and are often plagued with recurrent infections and high incidence of cancer.  We are hopeful, however, that the medical advancements made in the last ten years with stem cell transplantation in children with Hyper IgM will allow Idan to live a normal healthy life.  When his lungs have fully healed, Idan will need a stem cell transplant, which, though it comes with its own set of risks and challenges, is the only known cure.  Thankfully, we have already found a donor who is a perfect match.

How You Can Help

We need your help raising funds to enable us to make sure that, no matter what happens to us, Idan has the best possible medical care, a successful transplant, and enough funds to cover the medical costs he will incur along the way.  This will help to pay for Idan’s hospitalization for the PCP, extensive genetic testing, weekly infusions of immunoglobulin, frequent trips to the pediatrician, immunologist, pulmonologist, and transplant team, as well as the cost of a stem cell transplant and future hospitalization.   We know we cannot do this alone, and, to that end, we have set up this fundraising page for Idan. 

Please post, send to your family and friends, and share liberally.  We appreciate any and all support that you can provide.  Please note that any gifts to Idan are not tax deductible. If you would like to pray for Idan, his full hebrew name is Idan Yarden Ben Esther.

We will literally go to the ends of the earth to find the best medical care for Idan. This disorder is so rare that there are only a few doctors around the world that have even encountered it, let alone know how to treat it effectively.  We are hopeful that, with your help, Idan will have access to these experts and will be cured.

Thank you,

Amanda, Akiva & Idan

Week 2 in the ICU – Update

Happy to no longer have a tube down his throat
Hi all,

Thank you for all the warm wishes and prayers for Idan. We are now on day 15 of living in the ICU (AKA International Space Station). We are still taking all precautions, and are in Isolation wearing masks, gloves and gowns. Idan has been improving every day from the pneumonia. Yesterday afternoon they took the breathing tube out (extubated) and he now only gets a small amount of oxygen in his nose. This was a very big step after being intubated for 13 days. They have also started weaning him the narcotics, which has caused him to have some withdrawal symptoms and he has the shakes and some other symptoms of withdrawal (think Matthew Perry as Chandler in season 9 of Friends when he was addicted to pain killers), but they are doing a good job here adjusting the doses to help him deal. It was just another scary sleepless night during Amanda’s shift since idan was all wired and could not sleep.  On the plus side, since he no longer has the breathing tube, Amanda was able to climb into bed with Idan and hold him for the first time in 14 days (cue waterworks).

He is still getting feeding through his nose tube and still has a bunch of other IV’s. But there is a plan in the next 24-48 hours to get him to eat on his own with a bottle, and to maybe get some of the main IV lines out. 

Overall his spirits have much improved since being extubated (see pics from this morning below) and he is more playful. We are still waiting on many tests to determine the type and severity of his immunodeficiency.  As of now, we have mostly ruled out SCID, but there is a long list of other possibilities.  The best part about Idan being extubated for all three of us is that after 13 days we finally got to hold him again 🙂

I will update more with better news as things move along.  Please feel free to share this news with others that have been keeping tabs on Idan.

Thanks,

Akiva, Amanda & Idan

 

Email Update 1 – Day 4 of ICU

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Hey,

I know you love to get updates about crazy things going on in my life, and after what I pulled off 7 years ago, you probably assumes you heard that last of it. Sadly, this time it is Idan. Last Wednesday, we had to rush him to the ER because he was having a lot of trouble breathing on his own. Right from a doctor’s visit they took us in the ambulance to NYP Cornell. He had been sick for a couple of weeks, and breathing faster and faster. They assumed it was just a virus, but he was not getting enough oxygen on his ond his x-rays showed a lot of fluid in his lungs. In the ICU they stabilized his condition, but he is intubated and on breathing machines. That is when the episode of House began. Trying to figure out the cause of his lower respiratory infection has been tricky. At first, he tested positive only to the RihonoVirus (AKA Cold) but that was then ruled out. They took a lunch fluid sample. and were thinking they would find a rare lung disease that is causing blood in his lungs. But that was not the case. Instead they found Pneumocystis pneumonia which is usually only affects kids with an immunodeficiency disorder. So that is now what we are trying to figure out, what kind of rare immunodeficiency disorder he might have. The good news, is that they can treat his current Pneumocystis pneumonia with Antibiotics and steroids that they started last night. It will probably be at least 10 days of this treatment for his lungs for fully clear. Then the long -term battle will start once they are able to diagnose is immunodeficiency disorder, which may take some time.

Amanda and i have been living in the ICU since Wednesday, and it has been a challenging time. But are surrounded by close family who are making sure we get food and rest. Idanlooks comfortable on the machines and they keeps him sedated and asleep while they treat him. We hope his lungs start clearing soon, and they can extubate him and wake him up in a couple of days. It looks like we will be at Cornell for another 2 weeks at least. But there is really no way of knowing. Once we are out of the ICU and in a normal ward I think it will be easier for visitors to come, but for now we are limiting visitors to close family. If you plan to call, better to email first as I have my phone on loud for family, but don’t want to disturb Idan.

Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers.

 

Update Day 3 of the ICU – PCP

Turn for the worst

Sat: 11AM

Hi all.

Going to give an update on how things are going in past 24 hours.

On Friday afternoon the doctors advised and we agreed that the best things to do is to run a Bronchoscopy to get a sample of the fluid in his lungs to reach a better diagnosis. To do this, Idan had to be Intubated. The test went well and so did the Intubation. So like his father before him he is now totally out and on a respirator and breathing tube. He is going to stay like this for a few days until they feel he is getting better and he can breath on his own again. Also, as we wait for all the labs to come back to know a better diagnosis, they are doing their best to keep him sedated. Right now they are trying to get a feeding tube down his nose so they can start giving him food into his colon.

As far as treatments: We are still waiting for diagnosis. If they do find red blood cells in the sample they took on Friday, it will probably indicate that he has some bleeding disorder in his lungs, and that might have been the cause (along with the cold virus that might have triggered it). They will then treat with Steroids and hope that it solves the problem in short run, with follow up visits with the Pulmonologist after we get out.

They did also find a bacteria in his lungs, which should not have been there. So last night they started him on antibiotics as well. They are doing many more labs on the samples they took and they are going to know more in the next couple of days, we hope.

As of now, there is not much more we can do for him besides wait by his side and hope he starts getting better soon.

You can call me on my cell if you want to chat more and I can pick up when I am not talking to a doctor/nurse.

Thanks for all,

12:51PM

We just got another update and they feel like that found a diagnosis. It seams that based on the test yesterday where they took a sample of the fluid in his lungs, he has a very rare Pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP). This is not common in healthy babies, and usually only presents itself with babies with a immune deficiency. Since there is little to no chance that he has HIV (All mothers are tested when they go into labor in NY) and he has not had steroid treatments for cancer. it is a mystery that still needs to be solved. They are going to bring in the infectious disease team now to decide on the course of treatment. It looks like a combo of antibiotics and steroids work very well to get rid of the fungal infection. But they need to also figure out why he got this. Most of us have this fungus in our lungs, but our immune system keeps it in check. So more tests are going to be done in next few days to try to figure this out. Indeed a very crazy episode of House. They are trying hard to keep in sedated and comfortable while he is intubated. So that the treatment can work and get him better. And we will take this one step at a time.

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