What was originally planned to be a getaway to visit family out in Tacoma, Wash., last August soon became nine days in a hospital for Jamestown High School freshman Anne Dodson. After enjoying only a few days with her family, Dodson, 14, became ill and began vomiting.
By: Brian Willhide, The Jamestown Sun
What was originally planned to be a getaway to visit family out in Tacoma, Wash., last August soon became nine days in a hospital for Jamestown High School freshman Anne Dodson.
After enjoying only a few days with her family, Dodson, 14, became ill and began vomiting.
Originally it was thought to be nothing too unusual, as her mother, Rosalie Dodson, said Anne had suffered bouts with abdominal migraines since she was 18 months old. But as the vomiting worsened, her family became increasingly concerned.
“She had been doing well at the time. She hadn’t been hospitalized in two years and her migraines had become more treatable,” Rosalie said.
According to WebMD, abdominal migraines are a variant of migraine headaches and occur in about 2 percent of all children, with females being affected more than males. They can cause severe stomach pain, nausea, abdominal cramping and often vomiting.
There is no known cause for abdominal migraines, but doctors who treated Anne at a young age attributed her migraines to exposure to viruses such as the flu.
More ill than normal
During her time in Tacoma, family had noticed Anne was getting sick more than usual.
“When she was younger and experiencing the migraines, she would wake up the next day or a couple days later and be well again,” Rosalie said. In this instance, however, that was not the case.
Rosalie said Anne continued intermittently vomiting and could not hold down food.
She was transferred to the University of Minnesota Children’s Hospital, where doctors determined Anne’s gallbladder was not fully functioning properly, but ruled out a number of possible causes such as acute allergies.
Following a number of tests, Anne saw an abdominal migraine specialist in Missouri whom she had received treatment from since age 5.
Her condition did not immediately improve and she spent two months in a Missouri hospital receiving total parental nutrition, which is when a patient receives nutrition through a needle or catheter placed in a vein.
“She was doing semi-well after that and was able to briefly come home,” Rosalie said.
In December, the Dodsons were referred to specialist Dr. Thomas Abell with the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Abell is a gastroenterology specialist who treats conditions much like Anne’s dealing with abdominal pains and diseases of the digestive organs.
Abell could not be reached for comment for this story.
Rosalie said a series of tests were performed at the University of Mississippi Medical Center and a temporary gastric pacemaker was placed in Anne to help alleviate her pain and nausea.
“There were some complications, but Anne was discharged and we headed home,” Rosalie said.
During the flight, Anne began a bout of heavy vomiting, which eventually led to a trip to an emergency room in Memphis, Tenn.
One month later, Anne’s temporary gastric pacemaker was replaced with a permanent pacemaker at Sanford Health in Fargo.
However, the Dodsons became frustrated with Anne’s lack of improvement and in February they sought assistance from Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
A possible breakthrough
Tests from Mayo Clinic came back with results that led doctors to better identify Anne’s condition.
“One test came back positive for an autoimmune disorder,” Rosalie said.
Doctors told the family antibodies were attacking Anne’s immune system, which was creating the pain, nausea and vomiting. It is a condition called perineal-plastic autoimmune neuropathy.
A 12-week series of treatments called intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) was recommended, which Anne began two weeks ago.
IVIG is given as a plasma protein replacement therapy for immune-deficient patients who have decreased or abolished antibody production capabilities, according to Mayo Clinic’s website.
Rosalie said these treatments are administered at Jamestown Regional Medical Center once a week for several hours each and doctors are also recommending a steroid therapy to assist her recovery.
It will take several more weeks for doctors to determine if the treatment is working at all, in hopes Anne’s system will at least respond in part to help determine what area of her immune system they need to focus on.
For now, Anne’s only two consistent diagnoses beyond the abdominal migraines she has suffered with from a very young age are an illness called cyclic vomiting syndrome (CVS) and perineal-plastic autoimmune neuropathy.
According to a release from Dr. Athos Bousvaros, medical adviser with the Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome Assocation, CVS is not a single disease, but rather a specific pattern of vomiting that can be seen in a number of disease states. The condition is characterized by recurrent, prolonged attacks of severe nausea, vomiting and prostration with no apparent cause.
There is no definitive test to diagnose CVS; the patient must be examined by a doctor who can use the patient’s medical history and examination results to exclude other possible diseases.
The release addresses the question, “Will the patient ever get better?” Bousvaros states that once a patient is properly diagnosed, many patients do eventually improve and can even “outgrow” the illness as they mature past their teenage years.
Benefit for Anne
“It’s been a long eight months,” Rosalie said.
Four surgeries in seven hospitals in five states have taken an emotional, spiritual and psychological toll on Anne and the entire family, Rosalie said.
Friends of the family, Bonnie Laber and Claudia Sharp, have been heartbroken by the Dodsons’ struggles.
“We know how hard it must be on them on top of Anne being sick — all the travel and expense that goes along with that,” Laber said.
Laber and Sharp have teamed up with other friends of the family and local businesses to host a benefit on Anne’s behalf.
A fish fry and homemade baked goods silent auction will be held from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Friday at the Zebedee Center in Jamestown, 214 Fourth St. SE.
A freewill offering will be taken.
“We can only do so much to do to assist them, but it’s really a joy for all of us to put on something like this to try and help them out,” Sharp said.
Cavendish Farms, Dakota Brands and the Knights of Columbus are donating items such as French fries, oil, fryers, buns, paper products and condiments.
Laber said plenty of others in the community, especially Emma Kleinknect and Jeff Willer, are donating their time on Friday to help out as well.
Stutsman County Thrivent Financial for Lutherans is supplementing the funds raised.
Those who cannot attend and wish to make a donation can do so at any Wells Fargo bank through the Anne Dodson Fund which has been set up there.
“This is really just a tremendous blessing,” Rosalie said. “The fact all these people are helping out is great financially, but it’s equally as great spiritually and psychologically.”
After experiencing what Rosalie called “more than three good weeks,” Anne had a relapse with her bouts of vomiting on Monday and has been hospitalized at JRMC.
However, she is beginning to figure out how many people she has pulling for her recovery.
“The support she has felt from the community, especially with a benefit like this, has really helped her understand what is going on,” Rosalie said.
To follow Anne’s progress through her parents Rosalie and Chris’s blog, visit http://how isanne.wordpress.com.
For more information on cyclic vomiting syndrome, visit http://www.cvsaonline.org.
Sun reporter Brian Willhide can be reached at 701-952-8454 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org