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Las Vegas girl’s mystery ailment under control; blood drive set

What started as a hand tremor at breakfast one morning turned into nearly two years of doctor’s appointments, unsuccessful tests, failed recovery and disappointment for a Las Vegas family of four.

Layla O’Bryant, 4, was diagnosed with cerebellar ataxia, a lack of muscle control or coordination of voluntary movements like walking, picking up objects, speech and eye movement caused by damage to her cerebellum.

Layla’s condition stemmed from a common cold; her antibodies surrounded both the virus and the cerebellum and, when the cold was defeated, the antibodies began attacking her brain.

Molly O’Bryant, Layla’s mother, who owns A Touch of Lash, a salon in southwest Las Vegas, said Layla was falling nearly 20 times a day, she couldn’t feed herself or control her bodily functions and she was having a hard time speaking.

Layla, 2 at the time, underwent hundreds of tests. After visiting the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, Molly was told Layla would never make a full recovery. As a last-ditch effort, the doctors recommended Layla try an IVIG treatment, or intravenous immunoglobulin, a blood product used to treat patients with antibody deficiencies. Weeks later Molly and her husband, Patrick, started seeing improvements.

“With IVIG she went from falling 50 times a day to 20 to now she doesn’t fall at all,” Molly said. “Her attitude is back. She is my little smiley baby again.”

IVIG provides donor antibodies, so Layla’s body attacks those instead of her brain.

Molly said Layla was fortunate to have all of her health care and procedures covered under the family’s insurance. They had to pay out of pocket for only a few products Layla used in therapy.

Molly said Layla plays baseball and soccer and participates in gymnastics.

“She is super active; she lost a year and a half of her life, so she is going out and doing everything she can do,” Molly said. “And it is all because of the IVIG.”

Molly said there is a nationwide shortage of donor antibodies and donor blood.

Cynthia De La Torre, external communications manager for the American Red Cross in Las Vegas, said summer often sees a decline in blood donations because of vacations and high school and college students being out of school.

“Twenty percent of blood collections are from high school and college students, and this is the time of vacation,” De La Torre said. “ People forget to give blood during this time.”

De La Torre said that every two seconds, someone needs blood in the U.S., and the Red Cross needs 13,000 donations per day to keep up with the demand.

“It is Layla, it is the babies born premature who need blood, it is the kids that have sickle-cell anemia,” De La Torre said.

Contact Rachel Spacek at 702-387-2921 or rspacek@reviewjournal.com. Follow @RachelSpacek on Twitter.

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