Stories about: Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s

Surviving the unknown: How Type 3 von Willebrand disease made Vasudha’s family stronger than ever

A picture of Vasudha, a kindergartner with Type 3 von Willebrand disease
A recent photo of Vasudha, who is currently in kindergarten.

As soon as Madhu and Sugastha’s daughter, Vasudha, was born, a nurse performed a routine blood prick to check the baby’s glucose levels. Since Sugastha had developed gestational diabetes during her pregnancy, the test was making sure that her newborn daughter’s blood sugar was within a healthy range.

“But then, that little spot on her toe didn’t stop bleeding for more than a day,” Madhu recalls. “The nurses chalked it up to the fact that she was a little baby, kicking her feet around, and that’s why the bleeding wouldn’t let up.”

It was just the beginning of mysterious bleeding events though. Over the first year of Vasudha’s life, her parents noticed strange instances of prolonged bleeding that resulted from small scrapes. When she was 8 months old, they grew concerned when bruises began appearing all over Vasudha’s body for seemingly no reason. Their elder son, Saketh, had never experienced any of this when he was a baby.

“We went to our pediatrician and he told us about the possibility of von Willebrand disease,” Madhu says. “Up until this point, I had heard about hemophilia but didn’t have any other knowledge about bleeding disorders.”

Von Willebrand disease is the most common inherited bleeding disorder — as many as 1 in 1000 babies are born with it — and it affects the body’s blood clotting process. There are several types of the disease; they are known as Types 1 through 3, with Type 3 being the rarest and most severe form of the condition.

“Our pediatrician ordered a blood panel test for Vasudha,” Madhu says. “He called us with the results and said that it was the worst-case scenario, Type 3 von Willebrand disease.”

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How precision medicine turned Jesus’ unique tumor into an operable one

Jesus stands on a playground jungle gym in August 2017, after a cancerous tumor was removed surgicallyOn a hot, August day in a Boston park, Jesus Apolinaris Cruz cooled off with a water squirt gun fight with his mother and sister. As he nimbly ran and dodged their aim, he twisted around to sneak shots of water back in their direction.  Peals of laughter rang out from the group as Jesus landed a jet of water on his sister.

It’s hard to imagine that just weeks earlier, Jesus, 13, had undergone surgery near his hip to remove an unclassified tumor, so-described because it couldn’t be categorized as any specific kind of cancer.

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