Boosting Baby Dalton
By Jennifer Hoegg
Tiny Dalton Morash is almost five months old and has yet to see his Kingston home. The baby boy hasn’t even been outdoors yet.
“Three days ago I was the first time I was able to put him in his stroller and wheel him down the hallway,” his mother Sarah said last week from the Montreal hospital where Dalton has lived since April.
Dalton was born with SCID - severe combined immunodeficiency, also known as “bubble boy disease” – so he has very little to no immune system. Because of a family history of the disease, Dalton was diagnosed before he was born through prenatal testing.
“Terrified,” is how Sarah felt when she got the news. Dalton was born by caesarian section at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax April 11, weighing six pounds, six ounces.
“He was taken straight to the isolation room on the cancer floor,” she said. Sarah wasn’t allowed to breastfeed her baby or even to touch him after the first two days.
“For the first 48 hours I was allowed to (hold him), but then I had to gown up.” Within two weeks, the pair was at Sainte-Justine Mother and Child University Hospital. Sarah’s parents, John and Brenda Morash, are staying nearby.
Treatment started almost right away, beginning with six days of chemo when Dalton was three weeks old.
“We had to make him sick with the chemo in order to make him better,” Sarah said.
“That was the hardest thing – to take a normal healthy looking baby and make him sick.”
At a month old, Dalton had a bone marrow transplant from donated umbilical cord blood, followed by more treatment and more tests.
“He is on steroids and anti-rejection medication and antibiotics to keep from getting sick,” Sarah said. Once a week, he receives intravenous immunoglobulin treatments.
“It takes 1,000 blood donors for each dose he gets,” she said of the blood product.
Despite the rough beginning to his life, Dalton’s prognosis is very good, Sarah said.
Her brother had the same disorder as an infant and is perfectly healthy now, which she said brought her hope during the ordeal.
When we’re here I feel so lonely and isolated. It’s nice to know there are people at home praying for us and helping out the best that they can. Sarah Morash
“(My brother) had a bone marrow transplant instead of cord blood,” she said of the treatments 20 years ago. “He spent 14 months in hospital (and) they had to gown up more.”
Dalton doesn’t mind calling the hospital home. Like any four-month-old, he is learning to roll over, shake his toys and spin in an Exersaucer and he has an engaging personality, his mother said.
“He’s always smiling and having a good time,” Sarah shared. “He’s very happy. Even after his chemo.
“He looks absolutely normal. You would never know he was sick.”
When Dalton has enough T-cells, lymphocytes that power the immune system, he can start the process of heading home by returning to the IWK.
Even though he won’t be able to go outside, except in a covered stroller, and won’t be able to be with other children for a long period of time, Sarah is looking forward to bringing Dalton home.
Living at the hospital and nearby Ronald McDonald House is “stressful, lonely and boring,” Sarah said.
“I’m excited that I’ll be taking my son home and to live normally again, to an extent,” she said.
“I won’t be able to work for about two years after his transplant because he’s not able to go into daycare.”
Sarah said she is touched to hear of local benefits being planned for the family.
“When we’re here I feel so lonely and isolated,” she said. “It’s nice to know there are people at home praying for us and helping out the best that they can.
“It makes me feel like I have a real wonderful community.”
She also wants to extend her thanks to blood donors, who make the treatments little Dalton receives possible.
“Every little bit counts,” Sarah said. “It can really save somebody’s life.”
How to help
A benefit for the Morash family is planned for Sept. 7 at the South Shore Bluegrass Hall in New Canada, Lunenburg County. A flea market will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., followed by a variety show at 7:30 p.m. For information, contact Pat Drew, 543-5480.