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Telemedicine lets a Palmer boy stay home to recover following a bone marrow transplant

Published: Apr. 20, 2021 at 6:02 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Watching Brandon Wiehe play with the toys he got for his seventh birthday can make his mom, Carly Adams, feel a little emotional. Adams explained the party last week was the first time ever that her son had a birthday where he was able to invite friends to their Palmer home to celebrate.

“He only had his best friend, and the little sister and one of his cousins over. It was only three people but to him, that was the most kids he’s ever had in his house really,” said Adams. “So he was on cloud nine.”

Brandon was born with a rare disease called Chronic Granulomatous Disease or CGD. It’s a genetic condition that impacts the immune system and leaves him vulnerable to infection. Adams said her son has a severe form of the disease which led them to seek the only known cure, a bone marrow transplant.

Brandon had the transplant in 2019 in Seattle and spent months there recovering. When he was finally allowed to go home, Adams said complications made him sick again.

“Last summer he had a really hard time. He was bedridden with stomach pain and skin issues,” she said. “The only way I could get him to play outside was if I gave him a pain killer. It was horrible, and it got worse and worse and eventually, we were medevacked to Seattle again.”

This time COVID-19 was a huge concern and when Brandon got back to Alaska his mother was determined to keep him there as long as she could. What made that possible were regular telemedicine calls on Zoom between the family, their Anchorage provider and their team in Seattle.

Dr. Jeff Brand with LaTouche Pediatrics said the telemedicine calls seemed to work well for everyone.

“Brandon went back and forth to Seattle enough to not have to keep doing that,” he said. “I think (Adams) had a Zoom call with the nephrologist in Seattle. I don’t know if they ever had a Zoom with the cardiologist, but we can do all of those things.”

Telemedicine offers connections to specialists with the added benefit that people don’t have to travel.

And while Brand said some patients are best seen in person, the system can work well for others, particularly for follow-up care.

Adams said the opportunity for her son to stay home while he continues to recover has been a game-changer for them both. They’ll have to return to Seattle this summer for a two-year follow-up after Brandon’s transplant but she’s confident he’ll get a good report. If all goes well, she said, he may even get the green light to start school in the fall.

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