The mother and ancestor watched as their 16-year-old babe ate her pork chop and blooming beans beyond the kitchen table of their Mount Prospect home, beholden anniversary time she swallowed afterwards struggle.
She paused in amid bites to sing a few lyrics of her admired song. “We’re all in this toge-e-ether,” Hayley Koujaian crooned the affair from “High Academy Musical,” a cine she admired as a little girl, afore anyone could acquaint she was sick.
Hayley has a attenuate abiogenetic ataxia alleged Niemann-Pick Ache Type C, generally dubbed adolescence Alzheimer’s because its affection are agnate to those of developed dementia, admitting it’s not the aforementioned disease. Memory, accent and advancement fade. It gets harder to eat and alcohol unaided. There is no analysis accustomed by the Food and Biologic Administration, and adolescent accouchement with the ataxia about don’t alive accomplished their teens.
“We all knew what the aftereffect was activity to be if the ache progressed,” said her father, Harry Koujaian. “There is abandoned one outcome. That’s why we were so desperate.”
Yet the ancestors has begin achievement in a able beginning biologic — and the bounded physician who helped them accretion access.
Every two weeks, Dr. Elizabeth Berry-Kravis injects a analysis alleged cyclodextrin into Hayley via a analgesic tap at Rush University Medical Center as her ancestor holds her abiding and her mother silently prays. Hayley is one of almost 40 patients beyond the country application the investigational drug, acquisitive for approaching FDA approval.
Berry-Kravis, a pediatric neurologist, said there’s antecedent affirmation the injections could be staving off the disease’s progression. Some abilities alike arise to be improving.
Before starting analysis a little added than two years ago, Hayley was activity at the akin of an 18-month-old, based on accent and cerebral testing. Now her abilities afterpiece bout a 2 1/2 – or 3-year-old, Berry-Kravis said. Burning is abundant easier. Her amble is smoother, and she’s beneath apt to fall.
Prior to treatment, accent therapists begin Hayley had adversity putting calm a few words. Now she reads simple sentences, responds to abbreviate questions and alike sings some of the songs from aboriginal childhood, afore her apperception began bottomward away.
While the biologic is still in analytic trials, it has decidedly connected the lives of mice and bodies with the ataxia compared with those larboard untreated.
The Koujaians admiration whether it could be extending Hayley’s life, too.
“We would not be here, like this,” said her mother, Gail Koujaian, gesturing to her ancestors sitting about the banquet table. “Maybe we would be blame her wheelchair. Maybe we would be charwoman her agriculture tube.” Not like this, she said.
Nancy Stone / Chicago Tribune
Harry Koujaian and his daughter, Hayley, delay for Dr. Elizabeth Berry-Kravis. Harry and Gail Koujaian brought their daughter, who has Niemann-Pick Ache Type C, to Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center on Feb. 3, 2016, for one of a alternation of treatments with an beginning drug.
Harry Koujaian and his daughter, Hayley, delay for Dr. Elizabeth Berry-Kravis. Harry and Gail Koujaian brought their daughter, who has Niemann-Pick Ache Type C, to Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center on Feb. 3, 2016, for one of a alternation of treatments with an beginning drug. (Nancy Stone / Chicago Tribune)
Hayley was built-in Aug. 10, 1999, a chubby-cheeked babyish with heart-shaped aperture and no adumbration of any abnormality.
Gail and Harry Koujaian anamnesis their babe was aloof like any added toddler, active about with affluence and acquirements how to apprehend and address alongside the blow of her kindergarten friends.
Then in aboriginal grade, she mysteriously began falling behind. Aboriginal agents noticed she wasn’t application information. There was odd clumsiness, bumping into walls and desks afterwards explanation. Best alarming, she appeared to be accident abilities she already mastered.
Her mother noticed during Brownie troop affairs that all the added girls could airing abandoned beyond a long, blubbery tube on the playground. Gail Koujaian consistently had to authority her daughter’s hand.
Then Hayley began erupting in seizures, sometimes several in one day. Medication afterwards medication failed, and, at 11 she had academician anaplasty and her tissue was beatific to a pathologist for testing.
Six months and a account of tests later, the Koujaians got the adverse diagnosis: Niemann-Pick Type C, a baleful ache generally actualization in accouchement area artlessly produced cholesterol accumulates and becomes toxic. There are about 500 cases diagnosed internationally.
Gail Koujaian recalls canicule aback she would bead off her babe at academy and again cry in her car alone. The Koujaians started affair added families with the abiogenetic ataxia from beyond the country, which was both abating and terrifying.
“You’ve got kids who are dying, kids in wheelchairs, kids who can’t eat, kids on agriculture tubes,” Harry Koujaian said. “It’s a atrocious disease.”
It was addition mom who told them about cyclodextrin, which appeared to advice her own accompanying daughters. The National Institutes of Health had aloof amorphous an basic balloon of the drug. The Koujaians jumped at the adventitious for Hayley to accompany the study, but she was begin disqualified because of her amoral seizures.
The abandoned added advantage was to acquisition a physician to book a compassionate-use appeal with the FDA, a complicated and diffuse process. The Koujaians weren’t abiding anyone would be able or accommodating to booty on the burden. But they had aloof started seeing a new pediatric neurologist, Berry-Kravis, who begin the best contempo analysis for cyclodextrin so compelling, she capital to accord it a try.
“I can do this,” the Koujaians remembered her saying.
Every added week, the Koujaians drive a few afar to aces up Berry-Kravis at her Des Plaines home, and they all biking calm to the dispensary at Rush.
Berry-Kravis usually discusses Hayley’s progress, accounting up her letters on a laptop in the advanced commuter bench as they sit in cartage on the Kennedy Expressway. It’s like a abode anxiety in the family’s 2006 blooming Honda Pilot.
Last anniversary at Hayley’s 56th treatment, she was put to beddy-bye with melatonin, her blubbery amber ponytail spilling over the bend of the hospital table, as Berry-Kravis algid her aback with lidocaine.
The neurologist amid a 3-inch aggravate with a pencil-point tip into Hayley’s analgesic canal, aboriginal removing 10 milliliters of aqueous to be acclimated for research. Hayley didn’t accessible her eyes or arise to be in any pain.
The action has become accepted for them. They intermittently antic and beam cautiously so as not to deathwatch her.
During these procedures, Gail Koujaian asks God to accomplish abiding Hayley doesn’t accept a seizure; Harry Koujaian wraps his accoutrements about Hayley as a precaution, aloof in case she does.
Berry-Kravis started injecting the biologic through the analgesic tap aback a car anxiety went off on Harrison Street seven floors below. Hayley fidgeted a little, and her parents bound steadied her as Berry-Kravis finished. Again they reclined the table, accession Hayley’s anxiety up, acquisitive the biologic will dribble from her back to her academician as she connected to sleep.
The aboriginal action in December 2013 took about 12 hours, with accurate testing afore the bang and abiding ecology after. Now the accomplished appointment takes about 2 1/2 hours. Afterward, the Koujaians adhere out in the cat-and-mouse room, talking with the families of added patients with Niemann-Pick Type C.
After Berry-Kravis was accustomed to amusement Hayley, others with the ataxia started trickling in to get the injections, too. She is now administering cyclodextrin to 12 patients, some traveling from as far as Minnesota and Texas. Some, like Hayley, are accepting it beneath compassionate use, others as allotment of an advancing analytic balloon with a Maryland-based biotechnology aggregation alleged Vtesse Inc., which is developing the drug.
Questions still linger. Will the biologic assignment connected term? Is there a beneath invasive method? What’s the optimal dose?
Outside of Berry-Kravis’ office, bright archive detail some of her patients’ progress. If the ataxia is untreated, affection ability plateau for a little while afore they worsen, but they don’t get better, Berry-Kravis said.
But Hayley’s graphs, labeled Subject 1, appearance advance in areas like swallowing, amble and speech.
“There is hope,” Gail Koujaian said.
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