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Making a Mark
Making a Mark is published bi-annually by the CHOC Foundation. It features CHOC and children?s healthcare news, patient highlights, hospital updates, board member spotlights, and community involvement stories and is mailed to donors who support CHOC with a gift of $250 and more.

Miraculous Recovery Gives Little Girl Second Chance at Life
Sophia nearly died from septic shock. Today she is a happy, active little girl who enjoys playing with her younger brother Wyatt.

They’ll never forget the date—May 22, 2006. That was the day Patrick and Bridget Colby watched as their 2-yearold daughter Sophia bravely fought for her life. As Sophia lay in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) with 19 intravenous pumps hooked up to her little body, her heart stopped beating five separate times.

The Colbys watched helplessly as their little girl’s limbs turned grayish blue; her body marshalling all of its resources in a desperate attempt to keep her alive. Sophia, who had recently undergone a bone marrow transplant, was fighting massive septic shock. An out-of-control infection was literally bombarding her tiny body.

“We were told that she would probably not make it to the next morning,” Bridget says through tears as she recalls the incident. “At that moment, Sophia was the most critically ill child at CHOC. I just remember the heroic team of doctors and nurses in that room fighting valiantly to save her life. Amid all the chaos, my little girl’s will to survive was palpable; she was not going to die.”

In the face of what should have been Sophia’s final few moments, Sophia defied all the odds—and survived.

What had started as a high fever in August 2005 eventually led to the heroic scene in the CHOC PICU nearly one year later. That summer, Sophia went on a camping trip in the Sierra Mountains with her family. She had been battling a fever for several days, but her pediatrician assured them that with antibiotics, Sophia could still go.

Two days into their trip, Bridget noticed that Sophia was sluggish, and her nail beds had turned blue. She and Patrick rushed Sophia to a nearby hospital in Mammoth, CA. After hours of tests, blood work and X-rays, the attending physician told them that Sophia’s spleen was enlarged, and all of her blood counts were dramatically low; they thought she may have leukemia. “He told us that if we didn’t pack up and leave first-thing in the morning, they would air lift Sophia to CHOC,” Bridget says.

As devastating as the possible diagnosis of leukemia was, the Colby’s nightmare was just beginning. “At CHOC, a team of specialists evaluated Sophia for nearly a week; none of them was quite sure what she had,” Bridget explains.

Then, Dr. Lilibeth Torno, an oncologist at CHOC, uttered the words that Bridget will never forget: “we think your daughter has Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis, and we know she is dying.”

Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis (HLH) is an extremely rare and aggressive disease that causes the body’s own immune system to attack itself. HLH affects approximately one in every one million children.

What followed next was eight weeks of chemotherapy, steroids, immunosuppressants and a variety of other medications. When Sophia’s HLH failed to go into remission, she underwent a bone marrow transplant; the donor was her father Patrick. Three months later, she suffered the septic shock that nearly took her life.

Since then, Sophia has made a remarkable recovery. While she has only 15 percent normal bone marrow density and severely low blood cell and platelet counts, she is doing all the things that normal children do. Playing, laughing, and sometimes even refusing her nap—just like other kids her age.

“We know we’re not out of the woods yet,” says Bridget. “HLH is a very rare disease, and while there is little research, at least there is hope. We just take each day as it comes, and pray for the research to catch up with the disease. Until that time, Sophia is happy to visit CHOC every week for monitoring and to see the doctors and nurses who have become her extended family. We truly feel blessed to have a hospital like CHOC here in Orange County; CHOC was there for us when we needed it most.”

CHOC CHILDREN'S PUBLICATIONS
PHYSICIAN CONNECTION ENEWSLETTER
KIDS HEALTH MAGAZINE
ANNUAL REPORT
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chocChildren's Hospital of Orange County | UCI University of California, Irvine

Children's Hospital of Orange County is affiliated with UC Irvine Healthcare and UC Irvine School of Medicine

CHOC Children's - 1201 W La Veta Ave, Orange, CA. Phone: 714-997-3000. .