Children with blood disorders have high hopes for long-term health.
When something is wrong with your blood, it affects your total health. That’s why Dr. Barkat Hooda, Director of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology Division at UTMB, says that he chose to specialize in the field of pediatric hematology.
“Disorders of blood and cancer in childhood are highly complex,” he says. “It’s beyond a problem with the body.
These diseases affect the patient’s mind and soul, as well as their families. The beauty of hematology is that despite complex, potentially life-threatening problems, this holistic approach results in a very high success rate among children. And that’s why I am here.”
The All-Important First Step
Most parents can easily tell when their child needs to see a doctor—it’s often as simple as taking a child’s temperature. But when is it time to take your child to see a pediatric hematologist? “I specialize in disorders of the blood, so symptoms can be very non-specific,” explains Dr. Hooda. “Parents should watch if their children become very tired. So, the question is, how do you differentiate between normal tiredness and a real problem? If your child doesn’t have normal energy anymore, perhaps he’s suffering from anemia or another blood disorder. Step one is a simple blood test—a CBC (complete blood count). The results of this test are the start of all discussions in the majority of cases.”
Another presentation to alert parents is a rash with or without fever. “Red dot-like eruptions on the skin or a collection of blood under the skin or near the joints, as well as easy or recurrent bruising are all alerts to a possible blood disorder,” Dr. Hooda explains.
Good news and more good news
Children are very prone to disorders of the blood. “But there’s a lot of good news for my patients,” Dr. Hooda says. “We have a very high success rate with children with blood disorders such as anemia, sickle cell anemia, or hemophilia. Common cancers of the blood in children, such as acute lymphocytic leukemia, are mostly curable. With the right diagnosis and early intervention, the majority of our patients survive long term.”
Dr. Hooda says that, although it’s very frightening when a child is diagnosed with a blood disease, there is reason to be optimistic. “We don’t know how children develop these diseases but today, three out of four patients with childhood malignancy are expected to survive long term.”
The key to curing or treating a pediatric blood disorder is timely intervention. “There’s tremendous growth in our children’s clinical services Victory Lakes and Bay Colony under the expert leadership of our chair, Dr. Joan Richardson. There’s a dedicated staff in each of those locations,” Dr. Hooda advises.
Every difficult journey begins with the first step. Dr. Hooda says, “If you’re wondering about a rash, a lump, a bruise, or your child’s chronic fatigue, the simple CBC test makes it easy to sort out so many conditions. Treatment outcomes in pediatric hematology oncology are highly favorable these days.”
Texas City residents Lauri and Ray Dibrell were terrified when their infant was diagnosed with a blood disorder.
“Our son Carsten was 3 months old in 2010 when he had a routine checkup,” says Ray. “He had a little rash and he’d rolled onto his pacifier, which caused a big bruise on his chest. Our pediatrician noticed the petechiae (tiny pinpoint-sized bruises caused by broken blood vessels). She sent us straight to the ER at UTMB.”
Carsten was hospitalized for four days and received IV treatment after they established he had a very low platelet count. Dr. Hooda quickly diagnosed him with ITP—immune thrombocytopenia purpura. Carsten’s first hospitalization was four days, and his second three months later, was his last. “He was responding well, so after that, he went to see Dr. Hooda once a week, then every other week, then just once a month. He’ll come in for a one-year checkup and if his platelets are good, then Carsten will be clear, Lauri says.”
Today Carsten is a healthy, normal toddler. “He’s in gymnastics, rides his bike, and plays on the trampoline,” says Lauri. “No more worrying. He’s recovered, and we’re all moving on with life.”