Teen first in world cured by experimental operation

Will return to DHS after battling through 2 life-threatening illnesses

Madison Tully, a 16-year-old from Destrehan who had two life-threatening illnesses, is the first person in the world to be cured of both sickle cell anemia and lupus with a bone marrow transplant.

Now Madison is looking forward to rejoining her classmates at Destrehan High School in February for her junior year and practicing to get her driver’s license.

When Madison was diagnosed with lupus in March, the parish community rallied around her and her family. St. Charles Borromeo held a 24-hour prayer vigil that hundreds of people attended and more than 800 people wore prayer bracelets in her honor.

“I want to thank everyone who has been praying for me – the prayers are working,” Madison said after her August transplant.

Before the transplant, she was one of only 12 people in the world to be diagnosed with both diseases and her chances of survival did not look good.

“Lupus was making her sicker because it was fighting for control and the sickle cell was fighting for control too,” said Roxanne Tully, Madison’s mother.

Madison underwent 10 days of chemotherapy and intense drug regiments that caused her to lose her hair and gain 30 pounds, but doctors said her only hope of survival was to have a bone marrow transplant. Because Madison was so sick, the transplant would have to be from a donor that matched her perfectly – like a family member – to avoid complications. But that option was nearly impossible because Madison was adopted. Doctors were skeptical that even a sibling would be a perfect transplant match because Madison’s biological parents were of mixed race.

But in August, Madison’s birth sister, Jasmin Thomas, 17, stepped up to donate and turned out to be a perfect donor match.

It has taken months for her to recover, but Madison is finally herself again.

“At first, after the transplant I thought I was never going to get better because it was so painful, but after a month or two I started feeling a lot better every day,” Madison said. “I feel good every day now.”

She said she was glad to be a part of this seemingly successful attempt at curing sickle cell and lupus simultaneously because the results could help others in the future.

“It’s kind of cool because now it can be done for everyone else who has it,” Madison said.

She also hopes to speak to other patients who are diagnosed with sickle cell and lupus to offer insight and inspiration.
While Madison is still going to the hospital once a week for check-ups, doctors have not found any trace of the diseases she had just four months ago.

“The doctors say she’s cured,” Jeff Tully, Madison’s father, said. “Her hair is growing back, she’s lost almost all of the weight and is almost back to her normal weight…it’s like a whole different child, like before all this happened.

“Now our concern is the boys.”

Roxanne said that it looks like Madison will have a perfectly healthy and normal future.


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