Confront the challenge and rise above
When Dr. James McCarty, medical director, pediatric infectious diseases, Children’s Hospital, began treating Iquo Udoh for valley fever, he told her to prepare for a marathon. Fortunately, the 16-year-old is known for her tenacity.
Iquo’s strength of character contributed to her remarkable recovery from a motor vehicle accident the previous year, when life-threatening head injuries kept her in pediatric intensive care and pediatric rehabilitation at Children’s for six weeks.
“Iquo had a high-impact crash,” said Dr. Peter Witt, medical director, pediatric plastic surgery. “She had a cranial facial disjunction, which means the face is detached from the skull. Hers was easily the most shattered face I’d seen.”
“I’m a nurse and I have seen so many things,” said Mary Udoh, Iquo’s mother. “But I had not seen a patient that serious that came out OK.”
“Iquo is that case everybody remembers that shows the unexpected can happen when patients receive expert care,” said Dr. Gary Magram, medical director, pediatric neurosurgery. “That’s why we do all we can for every patient with a traumatic brain injury, because you never know.”
Seven months after Iquo’s first marathon hospital stay, she began experiencing debilitating headaches and intense hip and back pain.
A visit with an orthopaedic surgeon in her hometown of Bakersfield led to an MRI scan that revealed a mass in her pelvis. The surgeon suspected cancer or valley fever, and sent Iquo back to Children’s for diagnosis, where pediatric experts recognized the illness immediately.
With 264 valley fever cases in 2012, Children’s treated an estimated 25 percent of all California kids hospitalized with valley fever that year, according to the California Department of Public Health.
The infection, caused by inhaling the spores of a soil fungus native to the San Joaquin Valley, had invaded Iquo’s skin, pelvis, bones and brain. Treatment would require a lengthy inpatient stay – Iquo’s second in less than a year.
Dr. McCarty administered a combination of antifungal drugs he developed for severe cases. Details of this unique regimen appeared in Clinical Infectious Diseases, the peer-reviewed publication of the Infectious Disease Society of America.
Iquo was discharged after four weeks to continue treatment assisted by Children’s Home Care, with daily infusions at home taking as long as six hours initially. Even after two intense marathons, Iquo’s positive attitude is firmly intact, proving yet again her strength of character.