This blog chronicles the miracles and struggles of our daughters, Emily and Olivia. Emily was born 15 weeks early and had many complications, but she continues to amaze us! Olivia, born in China with heart complications, is also beating the odds. She joined her forever family (us!) when she was four years old and has been doing wonderfully! UPDATE: We started homeschooling August 2009 :)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

medical mystery solved

When Olivia's initial blood work in March revealed that she was slightly anemic, her pediatrician prescribed iron supplements. However, after a month of iron and no improvement (though I initially, mistakenly thought there was in May), I started to look at her all the lab results we had from her pediatrician and her orphanage. As I studied them and did some research, I started to suspect that Olivia might carry a trait for a blood disorder called Thalassemia. With this condition the hemoglobin does not produce enough protein, resulting in smaller and fewer red blood cells which can cause varying degrees of anemia. Once I suspected that Olivia might have this I stopped giving her iron because #1 the iron hadn't improved her anemia, #2 I knew that if she had Thalassemia, iron was not the problem or solution, and could actually cause problems if she were to get overloaded with iron, and #3 her anemia was so slight that I wasn't overly concerned if went untreated.

To test my suspicion, earlier this month I requested a hemoglobin electrophoresis (a blood test to check the different types of hemoglobin in the blood) ...and my hunch was correct. She does carry the trait (Thalassemia Beta minor), but she does not have the full blown disorder (Thalassemia Beta major) which can result in life threatening anemia and require regular transfusions. Since she just carries the genetic trait she will probably not experience any health problems from it other than mild anemia. No symptoms and no treatment required :) The only thing we have to do is make sure she avoids iron supplements, and when she's ready to have kids, she'll need to find out if her husband also carries the genetic trait. If he does, their children could be at risk for getting the full blown disorder so they'd need to get genetic counseling.

If you're still reading, I'm sure that was way more than you ever wanted to know unless you've also got a child from China. It doesn't affect too many WASPS, but is commonly found in Africa, the Middle East, India, Southeast Asia, southern China, and occasionally the Mediterranean region. Among Chinese adoptees, those from the south, particularly Olivia's province of Guangxi, seem prone to having this condition. I found it interesting to learn that having this trait can actually be advantageous because this particular mutation seems to have protective effects against malaria.

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