Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Another Specialist, Another Group

Her first question after we introduced ourselves was, "How important is it for you to have a diagnosis? How much do you need to have one for him?"

It caused me to stop and consider. What is the right answer she's looking for? What do I really feel? How do I even express it? I answer truthfully. "If searching for answers isn't going to get us anywhere then we don't want to do it. We don't want to waste your time, or our time, and we don't want to put Rhys through more trauma. We just want to know if he has something so that we can help him out in school or when he's older."

The doctor nodded encouragement. She seemed to understand what I was trying to say.

Our goal is to see how we can support Rhys and bridge that delayment gap. But if Specialists don't think there is any reason to continue searching then I guess we'd have to be happy with all that we know now. The Developmental Pediatrician we saw at the Fraser Developmental Clinic said that we had done a good job with getting answers for Rhys and that we had exhausted a lot of routes, and that we shouldn't feel that we needed to look further. I think that she meant to be encouraging but we didn't cancel our appointment with the Specialist at TIDE BC.

TIDE BC is the research team based out of BC Children's Hospital that our regular pediatrician referred us to. (mentioned HERE) I was excited to see them; it sounded promising. They focus on treating and preventing Intellectual Disabilities (ID) through diet and/or drugs. They work alongside the Genetics department at BCCH as well. I couldn't help but feel somewhat hopeful that they'd be able to help us out. Even though I knew that the chances of them even finding anything wasn't high. But hope is an amazing thing.

We hadn't heard from Genetics yet, at the time of this appointment, but I admitted that it must mean that there was nothing to mention. We aren't upset about that. There's no need to bring us in on nothing, plus it saves us an hour drive in to BCCH, paying for parking, finding childcare, and the drive back home. We can appreciate that.  The Specialist at TIDE BC had most of our test results in her file and she confirmed that they were were 'negative' or 'normal'. (no surprise)

Our appointment was short. I was advised by a friend who'd been to TIDE already, as well as the printed handout the clinical nurse gave me, that we'd have questions to answer (mostly background info---stuff we answer at every doctor's appointment, which is frustrating.), they'd do a check on Rhys and we'd be send for a bunch of lab work. (yay) However, it didn't end up that way. Instead, the doctor recognized that we had done so many genetic tests already and that there wasn't much else for them to do. Instead, after a brief look over Rhys, she asked if she could refer us to another group. They are called CAUSES, another clinic based out of BCCH.

This group is still in it's testing phase, but showing lost of promise and answers. They work with Genetics as well, but the biggest and best part of them is that instead of doing multiple tests (which we already have done a boatload), they do only one. Yep. One giant DNA test. Bam! That's it! So no more going back and doing "one more test" and no doctor saying, 'maybe we can look for this..." How awesome is that? It's a huge test and answers our feelings towards wasting anyone's time and/or putting Rhys through more poking and trauma (he already is a huge handful to get labwork done as it is)

I found this about CAUSES on the Genome British Columbia site:

About the CAUSES Clinic
The CAUSES Clinic will provide advanced DNA testing, clinical interpretation, genetic counselling, and personalized recommendations for treatment for children with complex, undiagnosed medical
conditions. There are more than 7,000 known genetic disorders, and the CAUSES Clinic will test for all of these using one genomic test. If advanced DNA testing identifies a child with a treatable condition, then treatment can be started earlier. For some children, this will be life-changing. Obtaining the right treatment earlier will help prevent medical complications and save lives. The CAUSES Clinic is made possible by a $3-million commitment from Mining for Miracles through BC Children’s Hospital Foundation and is supported by the Provincial Health Services Authority and the University of British Columbia. The CAUSES Clinic will ensure that BC Children’s Hospital remains a centre of excellence providing outstanding care to the children and families of British Columbia.

The CAUSES Clinic will:
  • Test at least 500 children and family members within the next three years to identify illnesses that would previously have gone undiagnosed;
  • Provide genetic counselling, interpretation of complex testing results, and personalized treatment recommendations for children who receive a diagnosis from the Clinic’s advanced DNA testing;
  • Help reduce the number of invasive tests – such as biopsies, biochemical tests, expensive single gene tests, or MRI scans often requiring sedation– needed to obtain a diagnosis for children. This is expected to reduce the average number of tests per child required for a diagnosis from 10 or more to one, resulting in significant savings for both families and the health-care system;
  • Help prevent medical complications. In cases where advanced DNA testing identifies a treatable condition in a child, then treatment can be started immediately. Obtaining the right treatment earlier will help prevent medical complications and save lives;
  • Partner with BC Children’s Hospital BioBank to store biological samples donated by patients, which will contribute to significant research discoveries.

The doctor told us that this testing has a 30% rate of discovery.  Which is encouraging to hear. That's a lot of families who have gotten answers. But that does mean that 70% of patients don't have anything in the end. She needed us to understand that the results may not yield anything. But I said that even a "normal" is an answer. Isn't it? Having no genetic problems is actually an important piece of our search to know. It'll be definitive, at least.

CAUSES has a fast response time too. Apparently they take only about 2-3 weeks to decide (as a group with all the Specialists) if you are a good candidate for their program. So maybe we'll hear soon if this is something we'll be searching further. If the decide to look into Rhys' case, apparently they'll contact our Specialist at TIDE, who will then contact the Genetics Counsellor, who will then contact us to set up an appointment date. It's all so run-around-ish, but I was told it also happens sooner than typical.

The funny thing is that a few days after our appointment at TIDE BC, we got a call from the Genetics department. The doctor didn't find anything in his tests, but he'd like to recommend us to a different group for further testing!  When I talked to the Doctor's Assistant (I'm not actually too sure who she was, to be honest), I told her about TIDE and CAUSES and she said that was the group that our doctor wanted to send us to! How interesting!  I asked what the criteria was for this---what about Rhys was it that made him want to go further? She said that the doctor feels that even though the tests are coming back normal or fine that there may be something else going on with him. So it wasn't necessarily that Rhys was a "special case", but that he's worth looking further into. That was actually good for me to hear. (It's not all in my head!)  There's something there, but what? We're short of answers, but maybe there are still options.


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