A child battles back from a rare illness
Logan Jennings is your typical 6 year-old: a happy and active boy with an outgoing and strong personality. His mother, Chrissy Jennings, a nurse at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Ill., describes him as someone who doesn’t let anything stop him, especially his diagnosis of Atypical Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome (aHUS), an extremely rare genetic disease that can cause life-threatening damage to the kidneys.
When Logan was 5, his family took a road trip to Walt Disney World. A couple of days into their trip, Logan developed an ear infection and he was given antibiotics, but an allergic reaction caused swelling on the left side of his face, leaving his left eye swollen shut. He couldn’t eat or keep water down, and barely had the energy to walk.
“We decided that it would be best to cut our trip short and head back home,” Chrissy explains. “On the road, we had to make multiple stops in order to give Logan breaks since he couldn’t keep anything down.” Thinking that it was just dehydration, they decided to stop at a hospital in Tennessee to get Logan checked out. There they were told that Logan was going into kidney failure and would need a blood transfusion immediately.
“It all happened so quickly,” Chrissy says, tearing up. Even though Chrissy and her husband, Nathan, were in shock, they took immediate action and reached out to a case manager to figure out a plan to get closer to home. Chrissy told the case manager that she preferred Advocate Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn, Ill. “I know I can trust Advocate,” Chrissy says. When their insurance declined to pay for the medical flight to Illinois, a charitable organization stepped in to help with the expenses.
Advocate nurses arrived with the airplane and took care of Logan the entire ride back to Illinois. At the hospital, a doctor explained to Chrissy that he believed Logan’s health issues involved genetics: aHUS.
According to the aHUS Foundation, aHUS is not caused by a virus or bacteria, but rather an internal chain of events that sets the disease off, activating the syndrome. It is an extremely rare condition that can occur at any age. The disease starts in the blood, where red blood cells are shattered and destroyed, and small blood vessels are obstructed by very small clots. In aHUS patients, these clots begin to occur in places where they should not, like the renal system, where damage to the kidneys can occur.
Advocate Children’s Medical Group pediatric nephrologist Dr. Richard Kaplan recommended Soliris, a specialized medication that would help treat Logan’s genetic disorder.
“Even though Logan was critically ill, the nursing staff made me feel safe and that he would get through this,” Chrissy says. “They built a relationship with Logan, comforted him, and were a shoulder for me to cry on.”
The nurses continued to monitor his kidney function, and it improved within the next couple of days. Fortunately, there was no long-term damage, as it was caught early.
Logan still needs ongoing medication every two weeks with an IV infusion. He and his family are based in Bloomington, Ill, and trips up to Advocate Children’s would take whole days. Advocate BroMenn was able to step in to help accommodate Logan’s infusions. The family has since built a strong relationship with their physician, Dr. Lucas Pogue, who oversees Logan’s progress with the guidance of Dr. Kenneth Miller.
“Logan is very wise for his age; he understands what he has to do or what he can’t do because of his disease,” Chrissy says. “It is the little things that are a struggle.” Despite all of this, Logan is an active kid who enjoys playing outside, sports, and swimming lessons.
In late September, Logan was able to be an Honorary Bat Kid for the Chicago Cubs with his older sister, Lydia. “The players were very kind to my children and encouraged Logan on his journey,” Chrissy says. “He had never been to a professional baseball game before and was excited for this opportunity.”
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