SMA: Oliver’s diagnosis

In the evening of November 11th, at a couple days before he turned 3 weeks old, we received a phone call from the geneticist that Oliver was diagnosed by blood test with Spinal Muscular Atrophy. The test showed he was missing the SMN1 gene and had two back-up copies called SMN2. Most likely he would be a Type 1, like his big sister.

We had to make a decision very quickly.

While I was pregnant, someone from an SMA support group contacted me with information about a clinical trial called NURTURE, a phase two study sponsored by Biogen for presymptomatic newborns diagnosed by blood test. This particular study wasn’t available in Canada yet but the closest centre was in Boston, Massachusetts. (Phase three trials of the same drug on babies with symptoms have been ongoing for awhile with very good results.)


Oliver's first visit to meet family doctor

Oliver’s first visit to meet family doctor


The next day, after we had digested the news and decided that we were willing to do anything for our tiny baby who was quickly losing the use of his legs, I sent an email to the study coordinator at the Boston site. She replied fairly quickly, stating their interest in Oliver, and we FaceTimed with her and Dr Swoboda almost right away. I was surprised–and relieved–that they made contact so quickly.

After an hour long discussion with Dr Swoboda (neurologist, SMA specialist) about my pregnancies, both babies, and aspects of the trial, Jordan and I decided it was in Oliver’s best interest to get the drug ISIS-SMNrx.

The doctor told us that it was imperative for her to assess Oliver as soon as possible. We already had an appointment for him to see Dr M, neurologist, at CHEO on Friday. She said that if we could be in Boston by Sunday, she could asses him Monday, November 16th. If Oliver qualified, he would receive his first intrathecal injection by Thursday. Could we do it? With Jordan on parental leave, YES!

As of now we have already completed three trips to Massachusetts General Hospital for the NURTURE study. After two injections, Oliver started to show more strength! By the time we arrived for his third on December 17th, Dr Swoboda was impressed with the progress he had made in the last two weeks.


Baby boy

In a short period of time Oliver’s disease had progressed rapidly. He couldn’t hold his head up or move his legs very much, and only used his forearms rather than his whole arm. With two doses of SMNrx under his belt he began holding his head up again, although for 5-10 seconds at a time, began moving his legs more, and lifts his whole arm up and keeps them held to his chest when rolled side to side. It’s such a huge difference and we are so happy he’s getting this drug!

Oliver’s next injection is at the end of January. Now that we are done travelling for a little while, I will try to write some updates about our precious baby boy who is 8 weeks old now!