LAURIUM - Dawson Loyd is a happy baby and one would never know he was recently diagnosed with a rare condition.
Born Dec. 3, 2010, he lifts his head while lying on his belly and smiles at the dog. Everything about him seems normal.
However, just three days after he was born, his parents Eva and Seth Loyd, were told their son had a rare genetic disorder by Dr. Anas Jaber, a pediatrician. Dawson and his family were referred to a medical center in Marshfield, Wis., where they found out Dawson had Alpha 1-antitrypsin deficiency, more commonly known as Alpha-1, which goes undetected in a lot of people.
"We were terrified," Eva said of finding out her new baby had a genetic disorder. "I began asking everyone and my husband if they carry this gene."
It turns out Eva and Seth both carry a recessive gene that was passed to Dawson. After Dawson was diagnosed, they were told their children would have a one-in-four chance of having Alpha-1. The Loyds have another child, a daughter who is 7 years old, who hasn't been tested yet.
Alpha-1 is a genetic disorder that can cause liver and lung disease in children and adults. The disorder is caused by defective production of alpha 1-antitrypsin (A1AT), leading to decreased A1AT activity in the blood and lungs, which then leads to excessive A1AT protein in liver cells. There are many forms of the disorder and some severe cases causes emphysema in adult life for many people, Eva said.
"They did blood tests and his liver enzymes were abnormally high," she said. "Higher than they should be."
Dawson's condition is not life-threatening, and he will go on to live a normal, healthy life. And now the family knows if Dawson avoids certain hazards such as smoking, sawdust and paint fumes, among others, he will be healthy.
Eva stressed the importance of creating awareness about the disease.
"Sometimes I see people driving in their cars and they're smoking with their kids in the backseat and I think, if their children have this disease and they don't know it, they can be affecting their lives in a big way," she said. "It's important to have your children tested."
Now, if they see people smoking outside public places, the Loyd's take extra precaution, shielding their baby from harmful pollutants.
"We were worried we'd never be able to go camping, or anything like that," Eva said. "But now we know how to handle these situations."
Eva said many young children also need liver transplants, but for now, they take it one day at a time as they watch him grow.
"I love Dr. Jaber," she said. "Dr. Jaber and Portage Health have helped my family through this."
Now, Dawson is on medication and is growing just like every baby his age. Although they were initially terrified when they heard of Dawson's disorder, they are thankful it was caught early and now they have all the tools and assistance to help Dawson live a healthy, normal life.
"There are so many things that could be worse," she said, holding up her smiling baby.