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Immune Deficiency Toddler Starting To Lead Normal Life

August 9, 1985

CARVER, Mass. (AP) _ June Halloran once kept her son, Sean, in isolation, fed him a special diet and ritually cleaned everything he might touch for fear that germs would kill him.

But today, when the family celebrates the toddler’s second birthday, he will be allowed to eat birthday cake, play with his cousins and pet his great Dane, Mandi.

″Just the fact that he’s here, he’s normal and that he can do everything a normal kid can do is a (cause for) celebration,″ Mrs. Halloran said Thursday.

His mother says Sean is triumphing over a condition he was born with known as severe combined immune deficiency.

Sean’s illness, which makes even the slightest exposure to germs potentially life-threatening, was similar to the case of the Houston ″Bubble Boy,″ known only as David, who died last year after 12 years in a sealed plastic bubble that protected him from germs.

David died when a bone marrow transplant failed because his new marrow apparently was tainted by a virus that caused fatal blood cancer.

Sean received a bone marrow transplant from his father when he was two weeks old, making him one of the nation’s youngest successful recipients.

Slowly, his own immune system began to work.

″Our life is very normal now,″ Mrs. Halloran said. ″We’re maybe a little more cautious than we would be but that’s probably out of habit.″

The habit came from the months Mrs. Halloran spent cleaning the household with heavy-duty antiseptic, following Sean around with cotton and alcohol to rid things he might touch of germs. His hands were constantly washed in the endless battle against infection.

Now, Sean plays with Mandi, the dog he received just before Christmas. He can play with other children, and he eats fruits once forbidden because of their bacteria count.

″Last year, we let him stick his fingers in the (birthday) cake but he couldn’t eat it,″ his mother, June Halloran, said Thursday. ″This year, he can eat it.

″Last year, we had family over but had to keep him in the playpen. This year, he can play with his cousins.″

Sean’s brother, Jason, had died at 41/2 months as a result of the deficiency. So when Sean was due, his parents took precautions.

He was born by Caesarean section to ensure sterile conditions. A healthy 7 pounds and 6 ounces, he was kept in a special sterilized room at Boston’s Children’s Hospital where tests disclosed he had the deficiency.

Sean spent five months in isolation at the hospital, seeing only nurses and his mother, a former nurse who had to scrub with antiseptic and dress in a sterile gown to see her baby.

His family once had to buy and keep separate jars of food for Sean for fear that germs in the family’s containers or portions could make him ill.

But Sean still requires treatment.

Every four weeks, he goes to Children’s Hospital to receive an intravenous solution of gamma globulin, to boost his immunity system, his mother said. The procedure takes two to three hours and Sean does not always cooperate. ″It takes a few doctors and a few nurses,″ she said.

His long-term prognosis looks strong, too.

″The worst that could happen is that he would have to continue taking the gamma globulin for the rest of his life,″ said Mrs. Halloran, adding that he may outgrow the need for it in a few years.

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