Letters to the editor

May 30, 2006

The danger of Reye's Syndrome

To the editor:

In the summer of 1975, my 13-year-old son became ill with a slight fever. I took him to the doctor, who said it was just the flu and it would run its course. He also had blood work done that didn't show anything out of the ordinary. The next day, my son's temperature shot up to 104. I call the doctor back and he put my son on Ampicillin and aspirin for fever. His condition didn't change much - no appetite, little intake of fluids and very lethargic. In four days, my son was dead. We agreed to a partial autopsy of just the chest area.

After the funeral, the doctor asked us to come to his office. We thought finally we'd get an answer. We were very anxious as the doctor looked at us and said "We don't know what your son died from. We did everything we could, but we have no answers."


I spent the next 31 years wondering why my happy, healthy 13-year-old son died so quickly. I only had one option - get his records and try to figure it out myself. I pulled his records with the autopsy report from the hospital. It took a long time to open those records and read them.

Finally, with the help of an old Mosby Medical Encyclopedia and my computer, I started my research. It was very hard, as it would be for any mother. The first words I saw on the report were "unknown sepsis" (infection). I read that they had ruled out Spinal Meningitis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and toxic drug reaction. There was a disease left they didn't know much about in 1975 that could have killed my son that quickly - Reye's Syndrome.

I looked up the Reye's site on my computer and was shocked to see all the symptoms my son had the day he died. One of the first symptoms is persistent vomiting in some children; in infants, instead of vomiting, they get diarrhea. The children become very lethargic (tired). A liver enzyme test is the only way to determine Reye's.

This very complex and often fatal disease was discovered in 1963 by an Australian pathologist, Dr. Ralph D. Reye and his associates. During 1950, Dr. Reye examined a child with unusual symptoms and the cause of death was undetermined. In the following 12 years, the same symptoms appeared in 24 more children, always the same. It affected the brain and liver. The disease became known as Reye's Syndrome. The cause still remains a mystery.

Reye's is often misdiagnosed. The largest number of cases reported were among 10- to-14-year- olds.

Adults also can get Reye's, but it is mostly a children's disease.

They believe Reye's is somehow connected to Aspirin, if given following an Influenza B infection or chicken pox. Taking aspirin is some how a risk factor for some children. Ask your pharmacist to be certain. It was too late for my son, but not other children who may become infected.

Janet L. Purdham


Wise words from Washington

To the editor:

Here's a prayer I ran across that I like. It was appropriate in the 18th century and should be appropriate today, but I question how many citizens practice any of the content:

"Almighty God; We make our earnest prayer that thou wilt keep the United States in thy holy Protection; that wilt incline the hearts of citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to government; and entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another and for their fellow citizens of the United States.

"And finally that thou wilt most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind which were the characters of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, and without a humble imitation of those example in these things we can never hope to be a happy nation. Grant our supplication, we beseech Thee, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

The prayer is the concluding paragraph in George Washington's farewell circular letter sent to the governors of the 13 states from his headquarters in Newburgh, N.Y., June 8, 1783. This altered version appears on a plaque in St. Paul's Chapel in New York City.

If we all could be more tolerant and more like our forefathers and practice the ethics of subservience, the people in this country would be far, far better off.

Our members of Congress seem to have forgotten they are supposed to be statesmen, with the knowledge and wisdom to listen to their constituents. At least offer a solution to our problems, get some backbone and stand for what is good for the country, not for their personal gain.

David M. McGaha


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