NPMC, SMH partner with Arkansas Blood Institute to honor local teen
In a joint effort to raise awareness for PANS/PANDAS (Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome, and Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections), National Park Medical Center, Saline Memorial Hospital (SMH) and the Arkansas Blood Institute will be hosting two blood drives in Hot Springs on Aug. 29 and Benton on Aug. 31.
Patients living with PANS/PANDAS often times go misdiagnosed leaving some families searching for answers to help treat their loved ones. For one Hot Springs family, it took personal research and persistence to find help for their son, Cameron Puckett.
“Cameron was diagnosed with PANS in September of 2016,” said Cathy Puckett, Cameron’s mother. “It is caused by a viral infection that passes the blood/brain barrier into the brain which causes the psychiatric symptoms.”
It’s estimated that one in 200 children in the United States alone are living with PANS/PANDAS. The infection-induced autoimmune condition can present itself through sudden onset of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), anorexia or food restrictions, anxiety, irritability, hyperactivity, sleep disturbances, facial tics, behavioral regression, mood swings and urinary problems.
“Cameron had been dealing with depression for years, before he was 15 years old he was dealing with bouts of depression,” Cathy said. “We had been back and forth to doctors doing different tests to see what was going on. Nothing ever got labeled because none of the symptoms ever really fit into the categories of a specific diagnosis.”
After discovering information about PANS/PANDAS, Cathy took it to the family’s primary care physician who then ordered a Cunningham Panel, a diagnostic blood test.
“Cameron’s three out of the four markers were into the red zone,” she said. “That is what got us contacting hospitals and eventually, traveling to Illinois for Cameron’s first IVIG (intravenous immunoglobulin) treatment.”
When they returned home, the Pucketts contacted Dr. Janna Jennings, a pediatrician in Benton who took on their case and continued Cameron’s treatments.
“We were blessed to find Dr. Jennings here in Arkansas, and she was able to do the other three IVIGs at Saline Memorial Hospital,” Cathy said, adding that Cameron also returns to SMH every Wednesday for vitamin replacement therapy.
Jason Puckett, Cameron’s father, in coordination with Saline Health Foundation Director Matt Brumley, thought an event to raise awareness and provide much needed supplies for patients needing blood and plasma would make a considerable impact.
“Matt Brumley had made mention of doing something to raise awareness for PANS/PANDAS, and my husband came up with a blood drive — it takes 1,000 donors in order to get one bag of IVIG fluids of plasma,” Cathy said.
“Those that know Cameron and his family have been able to see firsthand how the donation of blood products is truly lifesaving,” said Matt Brumley, Saline Health Foundation director. “When I see Cameron receive his IVIG treatment, the bag of fluid he receives represents 1,000 heroes. Our hope is many of these heroes will come donate on the 29th or 31st not only to help others like Cameron but to also raise awareness of a very real disorder. “
Because of his physicians, and the support of family and friends, Cameron will be attending the University of Central Arkansas this fall to pursue a degree in business.
“He is finally able to go off to school,” Cathy said of the 2015 Lakeside graduate. “That right there for us is a miracle.”
Those interested in donating in honor of Cameron have two opportunities on Aug. 29 at NPMC in the Fordyce Room and Aug. 31 at SMH in the Haynes Classroom located in the Health Education Building. To learn more about blood donation or to register for the blood drive, visit arkbi.org.