People News

Rare blood disease won't keep him down

1.0 from 2 votes
Monday, September 05, 2011

HE usually goes full throttle, but every four weeks Maxwell Westwood conks out like an old car.

When the Kinglake boy's body runs out of fuel the only solution is a blood transfusion.

The 10-year-old is believed to be the only Victorian with pyruvate kinase deficiency.

He lacks an enzyme used by red blood cells so they break down too quickly and his body cannot replace them fast enough.

Without a monthly transfusion, he would succumb to anaemia and eventually die.

His father, Phil, said Maxwell was born with jaundice. Eight days later he had his first blood transfusion.

Since then he has churned through 40 litres of blood.

"When he was young he was terrible with the blood and needles, and now they compliment on how brave he is, he just puts his arm out and deals with it."

Sometimes, when it's almost time for his regular pit stop, the whites of his eyes turn yellow and he becomes lethargic.

But most of the time there is no stopping him, whether it's on the football field or cruising around his parents' property on his bike.

"On a day-to-day basis, he's got to have medicine to cope with his iron overload."

Every three weeks he goes to the Royal Children's Hospital and the staff calculate exactly how much blood he needs.

Ambulatory Care Unit associate unit manager Dave Sutton said an iron overload could cause organ damage.

Maxwell will need regular blood transfusions for the rest of his life.

"Despite all of this he just quietly goes on. He's a great kid," Mr Sutton said.

He said Maxwell's condition was extremely rare, though it was often detected in the Amish population.

It is an inherited condition and both parents must have a copy of the non-working recessive gene for their child to develop it.

Mr Westwood said the family was indebted to regular blood donors who are helping keep Maxwell going.

To donate blood, contact the Red Cross Blood Service on www.donateblood.

© Herald and Weekly Times

Author: By Lucie van den Berg
Source: The Herald Sun
1.0 from 2 votes
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