For Aaron Washington, it's been a long road to recovery. Born two months early and diagnosed with sickle cell disease, Aaron began experiencing respiratory problems related to sickle cell disease at 5 years old.
Chronically low oxygen in her blood required her to have many blood transfusions throughout the early years of her life, and by the time she was 11, she had endured acute chest syndrome, three strokes, blood transfusions every three weeks, treatment for iron overload, meningitis, and countless hospitalizations, doctors and clinic visits.
When Aaron experienced her second stroke during a transfusion, doctors could not assure her family that the transfusion therapy would be able to prevent more life-threatening and debilitating strokes.
But there was hope. When Aaron turned 13, her older sister was identified as the closest bone marrow match. The match was not exact, but it was close. Aaron became the first patient at the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta to undergo a non-match bone marrow transplant, in hopes that a cure might be in her future—and it was.
Aaron was successfully cured of sickle cell disease, but brain damage from the many strokes she endured was irreversible. For more than four years, she suffered daily with multiple epileptic seizures. Aaron had a tumultuous road ahead of her once again.
She was treated successfully with medication for a little while, but eventually medicine could no longer control her seizures. For three years, Aaron took upward of five medications at a time. But still, seizures persisted.
Would Epilepsy Surgery Be the Answer?
In July 2013, Aaron was referred to Hyunmi Kim, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., Medical Director of the Children’s Epilepsy Center. Dr. Kim would help Aaron find out whether she could be a candidate for epilepsy surgery—her second chance for a lifesaving cure.
The Children’s Epilepsy Center performed several tests to discover the exact spot in Aaron’s brain from which the seizures originated. After successful tests, Dr. Kim and her team determined that Aaron was an excellent candidate for surgery. Partnering with epilepsy neurosurgeon Joshua Chern, M.D., Ph.D., they developed a plan.
Aaron had two stages of epilepsy surgery in September 2013. Since the successful surgeries, Aaron has been seizure-free.
Aaron is a phenomenal young woman, and with the help of Children’s, she has been cured of two separate lifelong diseases.