The Galveston Daily News from Galveston, Texas on December 28, 1997 · Page 34
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The Galveston Daily News from Galveston, Texas · Page 34

Galveston, Texas
Issue Date:
Sunday, December 28, 1997
Page 34
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C2 SUNDAY, 28,1997 GALVBSTON COUNTY, TEXAS Child bom of an AIDS-infected mother is how free of the disease • MNP JMvvnMfNMMMINM V^t^MMk ARLINGTON - There is ibis child in the middle of the floor, in the middle of crayons and construction paper and scissors, in the middle of creating a book. When he is finished, you are just as amazed by Devin Butts meticulous creation as you are by his very existence. You know his brief Me is nothing short of a miracle, because Devin was bom HIV-positive. Six years ago, by divine intervention or simple good fortune, Devin became one of the first in the womb to receive AZT, now a widely used drug to prevent perinatal transmission of AIDS. Today, the virus he was born with can no longer be detected in his body. "There seems to be two patterns of illness," said R. J. Simonds, medical epidemiologist with the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "A small group of the children who are infected seem to progress quite rapidly and get sick and often die the first year of life. The others seem to do OK in the first few years and seem to live quite a long time. In the middle are children whose immune system will slowly break down and at about school age get sicker and sicker. "It looks like from data at least from a few years ago that the average period from birth to developing AIDS was about five years. The average life span is closer to nine or 10 years, but half of the children will be dead by that point." Devin's mother, who died from AIDS complications, was an intravenous drug user. Twice before conceiving him, she had opted to abort the fetuses in her womb for fear they'd face the same fate as her own. No one can say for certain why Shari Butts decided to carry Devin to term or how it happened that Butts would be among the first HE\ r =infeetsd pregnant women to participate in the National Institutes of Health's AIDS clinical trials. Although AZT therapy is not 100 percent effective, the rate of HIV transmission has been reduced dramatically since the use of the drug was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1994. Devin's grandparents, Ed and Linda Barrier, credit the medical regimen with saving their grandson's life. Dodging Debt? CaH CCCS for free advice on financial matters 762-CCCS«l~800-873-CCCS Custom Alterations Same Day ServiceifOn Most Items) Tuxedo Rentals Starting At Weddings, Qa'ncineras and Special OccassionSj Tuxedo Rental Over 50 Selections I Dennis Willis Master Tailor (281)534-4638 ?J!on. - Sat 9:30 - 6:30 1105 Pins Drive • Dickinson i Devin Butts, 6, looks out through a window at the Arlington home of his grandparents, Ed and Unda Barrier, in Arlington on Nov. 4. Devin was born HIV-positive. Six years ago, by divine intervention or simple good fortune, Devin became one of the first in the womb to receive AZT, now a widely used drug to prevent perinatal transmission of AIDS. (AP) "He still has some problems because of the drugs his mother used," Ed Barrier said. "But he is HIV-negative, and he's healthy." A desire to change Even without the heavy burden of AIDS hanging over them, the Barriers said it seemed drugs would surely destroy their daughter, rendering her incapable of bearing them a grandchild, much less raising him As Devin moves amid his crayons and construction paper, the Barriers take turns describing the events that led them, to this place, without then- daughter, but with the grandson they were sure wouldn't make it. It was January 1988 when doctors diagnosed Shari Butts as HIV-positive during a routine checkup at a medical clinic in Dallas. In February 1991, Linda Barrier said her daughter discovered she was pregnant. "She was out running around doing drugs up to the fifth month," she remembered. "At the end of the fourth month, she said she'd had enough. Lo and behold, they started this testing on women. Shari said, 1 don't know which one I'm taking, but Fin going to do what they ask.'" In the ACT trial Shari Butts was enrolled in, half of the women received AZT orally, starting between the 14th and 34th weeks of pregnancy and continuing until they went into labor. The drug was given to the women intravenously during labor and delivery and orally to their infants for six weeks after birth. The other half received a placebo. Neither the pregnant women nor their doctors knew which therapy the women received. About 25 percent of HEV-infected women who received the placebo passed HTv* to their babies, but only 8.3 percent of the women treated with AZT transmitted the virus. Devin, who like other infants received AZT for sis weeks after birth, was born with HTV antibodies in his blood and tested positive for the virus until he was 18 months old, "We laughed. We cried. We all hugged and jumped up and down," Linda Barrier said, recalling the day her family received the test results that de- ISLAN :NTAL Ronald G. Landry, D.D.S, GENERAL DENTISTRY 6821 STEWART RD. 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Your favorite Designer Gowns: Ilissa by Demetrios • Alfred Angelo, Mori Lee • Mon Cheri & many more aire la-stock in sizes 2-44 and available for special order! 1201W. Bay Area Blvd. across from BaybrookMall 281-338-6651 Mon 8c Thnrs 10-8 • Toes, W«J, Fri, Sat !<W • Sun 12-6 • Use BrideiMut's Interett-Free Ujawty SmartPIanC clared him negative. "It was wonderful Shari was ecstatic. She was so happy to know her little boy didn't have AIDS." Putting AZT to the test In 1993, the most recent year for which complete data are available, an estimated 7,000 HlV-infected women gave birth in the United States, according to the CDC in Atlanta. An estimated 1,000 to 2,000 infants were born HIV-infected in the United States that year. As health-care providers across the country have incorporated the use of AZT into their dinical practices, perinatal HTV transmission has dropped dramatically. Nationally, the number of children reported to the CDC with perinatally acquired AIDS declined 47 percent between 1992 and 1996. *AZT changes the probability of infection from one in four to one in 12," Simonds said. "The key message here is we do have ways of preventing' m- .fection in babies, but it requires /that mothers get tested in time . the first trimester to be able to take advantage of the AZT, that they get prenatal care and avoid breast-feeding," he said. Parkland Memorial Hospital was one of about a dozen sites selected from across the country to participate in what was called AIDS Clinical Trials Group Protocol 076. It was the first study funded by the National Institutes of Health to try and interrupt transmission of the virus from the mother to their babies. "This was a very intensive trial," said Philip Keiser, the physician who heads Parkland's AIDS clinic and referred Butts for the study. "It covered every potential.base you could think of." In the end, mothers and babies who were given AZT, which keeps title virus from repHcating, were two-thirds less likely to develop HIV infection. But doctors still arent sure how AZT works. "Part of its effect is due to reducing the mother's viral load the fetus would be exposed to at the time of delivery," said Dr. George Wendel, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Parkland. "The rest of the effect is unclear. It may be that it acts as a prophylactic to the baby." Doctors believe that most mothers who pass HTV on to their babies do so during delivery, when the infant is exposed to the mother's blood and other fluids. "The good news," Wendel said, "is we haven't had an infected baby from a mother~who took AZT throughout her pregnancy in the last year. "When you work in a system as big as ours, that really strikes home that ifs effective." Sadness remains Although healthy, Devin is still a part of that system and will be for a long time. Because there are still many unanswered questions about AZTs long-term effects, doctors will monitor the offspring of women who participated in the'study until the children reach 21. For now, the Barriers simply marvel at the miracle before them. And although grateful, they feel a kind of sadness for other women and children in tite study. "I was very grateful that Shari was given AZT, but what about tile women given the placebo?" Linda Barrier asked. It didn't seem fair. While we thank God for. him 1 , we feel for the other mothers who've probably lost their.babies." And they still feel their own loss. At 4:15 a.m., Sept. 15, 1995, less than four years after giving birth to Devin, Shari Butts died with her family at the side of her hospital bed. She was 26. Linda Barrier said that her daughter never overcame her drug addiction. Shari's longest period of sobriety was about five months. Even when she thought she would die of AIDS, Shari couldn't control her cravings for another high, Linda Barrier said. ,-...,: But there are yet more pressing problems for the couple to deal with. Because of Shari's ^drug use, Devin suffers from attention deficit hyperactive disorder, and he has nightmares, the Barriers said. Unable to pay attention in school, Devin was recently put on Ritalin and is doing much better now. Ifs been a tumultuous road," Linda Barrier said. "Shari is gone, but we have her son. We think thafs a miracle." At that moment, Devin completes his book. He holds it up for his grandparents' approval Pride washes over their faces and over Devin's, too. And so in the middle of the floor, out of the midst of tragedy and confusion; is this living miracle r-r- Devin Butts. 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Don't miss the "ONWARD AND iWARD" Senior Radio Hour KGBC 1540 AM RADIO every Wednesday at 11 a.m. Hosted by Marc Weiss January Schedule January? Updates en Medicare Coverage Patricia Jakobi, PLD. January 14 Keeping Skin Healthy As We Age Sharon Rainier, M.D. January 21 Understanding Parkinson's Disease ' James Goodwin, M.D. January 28 Medical Research and the Media: Discovery Versus Treatment Michael M. Warren, M.D. UTMB The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston For more information and reservations call toll free (888) 887-6800 or (409) 747-2142.

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