Slight bumps would cause huge bruises on 15-year-old Ashley's legs and arms. In spring 2005, she hadn't felt well, but no one suspected anything too unusual. After a series of tests, doctors at her local hospital diagnosed her with aplastic anemia, a rare bone marrow disorder. Ashley then acquired a dangerous aspergillis infection, which became life threatening. Doctors battled both conditions while preparing her for a needed bone marrow transplant.
Three months later, Ashley was transferred to the care of blood and marrow transplant experts at University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital. The infection complication led physicians to estimate a 10 percent chance of success. Despite the odds, Ashley, her parents and doctors agreed a transplant had to be done. Other issues resulted in more surgery. Ashley remained in the hospital for several more weeks with continued progress.
After a double cord blood transplant, Ashley gained strength and made progress. In November, doctors discovered the transplant had left Ashley with post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorder (PTLD), a well-known yet uncommon complication, which blinded her. Other issues resulted in more surgery. Ashley remained in the children's hospital for several more weeks with continued progress.
Ashley's vision improved, though she is legally blind. She had to re-learn how to walk and dress, and catch up on a missed year of school. "She's not giving up on any of her goals," says her mother. "She has big dreams and I believe she'll fulfill them!"