Cayleigh – Recipient – London
For her first 18 years, Cayleigh Kearns continually suffered from ear, sinus and respiratory infections, and was often hospitalized with pneumonia. Her life changed dramatically when she was diagnosed with common variable immune deficiency (CVID) and began taking medication derived from donated plasma. Now able to attend school regularly for the first time in her life, Cayleigh earns top marks at Fanshawe College in London, Ontario.
Cayleigh Kearns Comes of Age
Around her 18th birthday, Cayleigh Kearns not only came of age, but in many ways also came fully to life. Throughout her childhood and teenage years, Cayleigh had suffered a nearly continuous series of illnesses: ear infections, sinus infections, respiratory infections. She was rarely well enough to attend school and to participate in activities alongside her friends.
“During my last two years of high school, I hit rock bottom,” Cayleigh says. “I got pneumonia a few times and missed so much school, I didn’t expect to graduate. Then I got the diagnosis and everything began to change.”
Doctors diagnosed Cayleigh with Common Variable Immune Deficiency (CVID). While the causes of CVID are murky, its effects are crystal clear: a weakened immune system leaves sufferers prone to debilitating infections. The only effective treatment is immunoglobulin (IG). Made from donated plasma, IG contains active elements of donors’ immune systems. Within months of her first IG treatment, Cayleigh’s health improved dramatically.
“There’s no comparison to how I felt,” she says. “I just felt a thousand times better.”
It took several attempts to identify an effective treatment regime for Cayleigh. When her body didn’t respond well to intravenous administration – the most common method – she had to switch to the slower and more painful subcutaneous option. Twice a week, Cayleigh self-administers: jabbing herself with a couple of hypodermic needles and settling onto the couch for up to two hours at a time.
“Maggie, my pet rabbit, helps me get through it all,” says Cayleigh. “You wouldn’t think that a rabbit could be as much fun as a dog or a cat, but she’s just hilarious. She hops around, then jumps up onto the couch and cuddles with me when I do my infusions.”
Doctors expect that Cayleigh will need IG treatments for the rest of her life.
“It’s normal to me now,” she says. It’s become a routine, a daily part of my life like brushing my teeth.”
Since regaining her health, Cayleigh Kearns has become a top student at Fanshawe College in her hometown of London, Ontario. Now in her second year of the Child and Youth Care Program, she maintains a 3.5 grade-point average.
“It means the world to me to be able to attend classes and to focus, because before I couldn’t even get to school; I couldn’t even get out of bed,” Cayleigh says with a smile. “It feels amazing to finally succeed at something that I’m passionate about.”
Cayleigh recognizes that she owes her health to the generosity of plasma donors and recently took advantage of an opportunity to show her appreciation. She visited the Canadian Blood Services clinic in London and met with several regular donors.
“It was amazing,” she says. “It felt so good to hug them and thank them, and they really appreciated meeting someone who benefitted from their donations. I don’t think it gets much better than that.”