July 6, 2013

Mass. teen with rare disease will travel to London

The Make-A-Wish Foundation responds to a Bay State girl who has an incurable illness.

By ANITA FRITZ The Recorder of Greenfield

GREENFIELD, Mass. – Fifteen-year-old Cameron Bluh-Derricotte was living the normal life of a teenager when on May 27, 2011, her world was turned upside down.

click image to enlarge

In this June 20, 2013 photo, Becky Bluh, left, and Tony Derricotte pose for a photo with their daughter, Cameron Bluh-Derricotte, center, at their home in Greenfield, Mass. The Make-A-Wish Foundation has arranged a trip to London for Cameron, who has a rare autoimmune disorder. (AP Photo/Greenfield Recorder, Paul Franz)

She had just returned home from her eighth-grade trip when she spiked a fever of 103 degrees, and it kept rising.

"The symptoms actually started while I was away on the trip," said Cameron, who lives with her parents, Becky Bluh and Tony Derricotte, in Greenfield. "My nose bothered me, I had a cough and felt like I had a cold, and my hip joint was killing me."

Her parents took her to the local hospital.

"Her gums were purple and gushing blood," said her father. "She started bleeding from every orifice."

She was also having a difficult time breathing and local emergency room doctors started to worry, because they couldn't figure out what was wrong with her.

"They rushed her by ambulance to Baystate Medical Center in Springfield," said Bluh. "They put her in ICU. She was bleeding out of her eyes."

Bluh and Derricotte, who are married, said doctors worked around the clock to diagnose their daughter.

"They couldn't treat her, because they didn't know what to treat her for, or how," said Bluh. "It was so scary."

Their daughter, who lay in a hospital bed in critical condition, was given a lung biopsy and put on life support because she could no longer breathe on her own.

"Our friends and family were bringing meals to the hospital for us," said Bluh. "For days, we never left her side."

Over the past two years, Cameron has been in and out of the hospital, spending almost more time in than out.

She suffers with Wegener's granulomatosis, an incurable form of vasculitis (inflammation of the blood vessels), which typically attacks older men. One of many autoimmune diseases, it can attack small and medium blood vessels in different organs and be fatal.

"I was just about to turn 14 when this happened," said Cameron. "I didn't know how bad it was at the time. I thought I was just really sick and that I'd be able to go to Camp Howe a month later."

But that didn't happen.

Not only did Cameron never make it to camp, she never made it to school that fall to start her freshman year.

Instead, she went through rounds and rounds of chemotherapy and steroid treatments, which changed her entire look and caused her to gain 70 pounds and lose her long, dark, curly hair.

"She was on megadoses of prednisone," said her mother. "She'd have multiple infusions of chemo."

Two months into her treatments, Cameron stopped responding to chemo and had what she calls a "flare."

"The lesions on my lungs started coming back," she said. "That wasn't good."

By then, her parents were taking her to Boston Children's Hospital, where a team of doctors took care of her.

Last year, Cameron and her parents were encouraged by her doctors to apply to Make-A-Wish Foundation and were approved within just a few weeks.

Cameron gave Make-A-Wish a list of the three top places she'd like to visit.

Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands, was her first choice, but it was too far from a hospital that could treat her if she had a flare-up while there.

London was her second choice and Atlantis, in the Bahamas, her third.

Make-A-Wish said it would send Cameron, her family and a friend to London.

"Because I don't have a sibling that's a minor (her half brother, Elliot, is 30), I get to bring one of my best friends, Maitreya," said Cameron. "My parents are going, too."

(Continued on page 2)

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