The last few weeks have been spent trying to assess the state of Ezra's immune system, but after all the testing, we are still left in a state of uncertainty. We always try to focus on the positive and there is much to be grateful for at this point. Ezra is now on a very low dose of steroids and there has been no sign of the auto-antibodies. We have not yet started to wean the immune suppressant. We are hoping that will happen at some point next month.
With the decrease in steroids, Ezra's new T cells have started functioning. To assess T cell function, Ezra's doctors run a test to see how the T cells respond to a "general" stimulant (as opposed to a virus or bacteria). Studies have shown that patients can fight off certain infections that are a concern following a T cell depleted transplant with two-thirds of normal function. Ezra's T cells are inching closer to that "two-thirds of normal" milestone. Ezra's T cells performed normally on this test prior to transplant. So not so exciting in terms of a cure, but a very good indicator in terms of T cell recovery post-T cell depleted transplant.
They also performed another T cell function test relating to the vaccine Ezra received. His T cells were able to respond to one of the strains of bacteria in the vaccine. Ezra's T cells were NOT able to respond to this same bacteria after we attempted to vaccinate him prior to transplant. This is at least some change in his immune function, which we were very happy to see. Based on this result, Ezra's doctor said that she is "cautiously optimistic."
BUT (there's always a "but"), Ezra's IgG levels have dropped. Between his failure to respond to the first round of the vaccine and dropping IgG levels, his immune system is acting just like it did prior to transplant. The doctor decided to test to see if he has made any antibodies in response to the vaccine even though it is likely too soon from the second shot to see a response. If he shows some response at this point, it will be a miracle. Most likely, it is too soon. Or he isn't going to respond at all because of the immune suppressant and his newly rebuilding immune system. We can't help but fear that this part of his system may not come back at all. As much as his doctors believe it will, after all we have been through, we will believe it if and when we see it.
The tricky issue is whether he needs to get a round of IVIG. We are all concerned about protecting him during the germy season. The problem with giving him IVIG right now is that we lose the opportunity to see if he has responded to the second round of the vaccine because it will be impossible to tell if he responded when he is getting the antibodies from IVIG. The other issue with giving him IVIG is that it will be another 4-6 months before we will know whether he is able to make IgG and antibodies on his own. That means another 6 months at the least of isolation and uncertainty. The older Ezra gets, the more concerned we are about his lack of contact with other children, and another 6 months of isolation is definitely not what we want. We will wait for the vaccine results to come back and go from there.
As we enter this week of thanks, we are very grateful for how far Ezra has come. Looking back to last Thanksgiving, Ezra had recently developed GVHD, was on high dose steroids, and we were very frightened of the course the GVHD might take. He has overcome many obstacles, and we know more challenges lie ahead. Right now, he is feeling well and is a very happy little guy. And for that, we are more than grateful.