Three young siblings with a rare immune deficiency are in isolation at their home south of Leduc, Alta., after potentially being exposed to measles.
Five-year-old Wyatt, three-year-old Grayson and two-year-old Elliot Rempel all have PNP deficiency. Prine nucleoside phosphorylase deficiency is a disorder that damages the immune system and causes severe combined immunodeficiency. It is characterized by recurrent infections.
“The PNP deficiency is a metabolic disorder,” the boys’ mother Jessica Rempel explained.
“Which means they were born with no immune system.”
Thanks to Make-A-Wish and the non-profit group Give Kids the World Village, the family experienced a dream trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando earlier this month.
However, when they returned home to Alberta, the family heard about the measles alert on the news.
On Sunday, Feb. 24, Alberta Health Services sent out a public alert that an individual with lab-confirmed measles was at the Edmonton International Airport and several locations in Leduc.
The exposure period overlapped with the Rempels’ airport time and they also frequent several Leduc locations listed in the health warning.
“It was devastating hearing someone with measles had gone through because, for our family, we knew that that meant isolation,” Jessica said.
“We knew that’s potential for them to end up in the hospital for weeks.”
“It was scary. Those feelings of fear… We’ve been through a lot with the boys already but to have those feelings of fear and ‘what is going to happen to my child now?’ resurface is almost traumatizing.”
The boys spent a day at the hospital and were given an infusion of antibodies to protect them from the potentially life-threatening illness. Since then, they’ve been in isolation in their home.
“I am scared. I am angry. I am worried. I am anxious. I am frustrated,” Jessica wrote in a message on her PNP and Me Facebook page.
The family is avoiding all outside contact and watching the boys for any symptoms: fever, rashes, coughs or sneezing. They have to be quarantined at home until March 12.
Wyatt, Grayson and Elliot were vaccinated as infants, before they were diagnosed with PNP. But they’ve since had bone marrow transplants and are currently considered unvaccinated since they have to be re-vaccinated post-transplant. Since the measles vaccine is a live vaccine, they’re required to wait.
Vaccinations, public health alerts and disease control are things the Rempel family monitors closely.
“Do your research. Find the research articles that are peer-reviewed. Don’t be taking things off of Facebook. Don’t just trust. Because it’s on the internet doesn’t make it true,” Jessica said.
“Until you’re in this position you don’t fully understand,” she explained. “You need to think about who else you’re affecting with this. Yes, it’s one poke. Yes, it will hurt. But the long-lasting effects it will have on your child, and for other people who are unable to vaccinated, are huge.”
Jessica said she isn’t holding onto ill will against the person who had measles. She understands it can take some time before symptoms present themselves and they may not have known they were infected.
“I’m more frustrated… There’s not that understanding of that snowball effect it has afterward.”
She’s also trying to keep a sense of humour — a must when you’re trapped inside your home with three boys under six.
“Chaos. Not just having-three-little-boys-at-home chaos but having to run to the hospital on Monday to get treatment. Having to rearrange all their appointments that we were supposed to be in the next couple of weeks,” Jessica said.
“I hope March 12 comes really quickly.”