Strength in Her Veins, Song in Her Heart
Reagan came to Packard Children’s when she was 6 and in the first grade. “Suddenly, she had big, dark purple bruises and pinprick marks all over,” said Sandra. Hematologist Bert Glader, MD, PhD, diagnosed immune thrombocytopenic purpura, or ITP, characterized by a big decrease in the platelets essential for blood clotting. The bruises and marks had been caused by bleeding under Reagan's skin. “She was so fragile that if she was hit in the head, it could result in bleeding to the brain,” said Sandra.
“I was really upset at not being able to play the way other kids did,” added Reagan, who wasn’t yet known as a singer.
Perhaps triggered by a virus hitting the immune system, ITP is usually short-lived. But in Reagan’s case, medicines, hospitalizations and chemotherapy didn’t fix the problem. Even a paper cut could send her to the emergency room. “This became a more problematic case, so we decided to do something definitive to help her regain her quality of life,” said Glader.
In 2010, minimally invasive surgery expert Sanjeev Dutta, MD removed Reagan’s spleen—the site of her platelet destruction—through her belly button in a no-scar procedure. “She’s now in remission and has gotten her life back,” said Glader. Reagan’s platelet counts are normal and her activities are not restricted. However, missing the spleen's ability to fight some infections, Reagan will need prompt medical attention for fevers, which can signal infections, Glader said.
While Reagan's health was down, her singing was up: Her music career unofficially launched at age 7 when she sang “Come Just as You Are” during Mass. “People said she brought tears to their eyes,” said Sandra, who had no idea of her daughter’s vocal power. Recently, she was the youngest of three winners in a competition of over 1,000 singers throughout California.
With her bruises gone, Reagan’s now deep into volleyball, track, horses and a brand-new bike. “But what I like most is singing,” said Reagan. She’s donating her iTunes proceeds to the hospital’s Bass Center for Pediatric Cancer and Blood Diseases.