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Elijah's Journey: Battling Chronic Illness with Courage

Elijah's Journey: Battling Chronic Illness with Courage

Lisa and Darrell Coleman were full of joy when they welcomed their baby boy, Elijah, into the world. The infant days flew by, but by the time Elijah turned two months old, he began exhibiting concerning symptoms. Initially, his pediatricians diagnosed him with "failure to thrive,” and he was placed on different medications and treatments, but nothing seemed to help.  

He was referred for advanced testing with Dr. Luke Wall, M.D., an immunologist at LSUHSC New Orleans School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital New Orleans, where it was determined that he had two genetic conditions: Chronic Granulomatous Disease (CGD), a genetic disorder impairing his immune system, and Neurofibromatosis Type 1 (NF1), which causes non-cancerous nerve tumors.  

Elijah was then referred to Dr. Lolie Yu, M.D., a pediatric hematologist-oncologist at Children's Hospital New Orleans and LSUHSC, for consideration of a stem cell/bone marrow transplant to address the numerous infections and autoinflammatory complications he experienced as a result of his CGD.  His treatment plan would also involve addressing his CGD symptoms with antibiotics and antifungal medications, but Dr. Yu recommended a bone marrow transplant as the best option for managing his two conditions.  

“CGD is caused by mutations in genes responsible for the production of enzymes that white blood cells use to kill certain types of bacteria and fungi. In CGD, these white blood cells are unable to effectively destroy these pathogens, which can lead to recurrent infections and a loss of quality of life,” Dr. Yu explained. "Bone marrow transplants offer a vital lifeline to patients with Chronic Granulomatous Disease. By replacing the defective immune cells with healthy ones from a donor, we can provide them with a renewed defense against infections and offer the possibility of a healthier, more fulfilling life. It's a powerful intervention that can transform the course of CGD and bring newfound hope to these individuals." 

At age two, Elijah underwent his first bone marrow transplant. After a few years, however, it grew apparent that the bone marrow transplant was not fully successful. He was re-hospitalized with severe nutritional deficiencies and his condition deteriorated.  

“It was terrifying,” his mother, Lisa, recalled. “He got really sick and at one point he even coded in the hospital.” 

Dr. Yu and her colleagues at Children’s Hospital New Orleans determined that Elijah’s best option was a second bone marrow transplant. Thankfully, the second treatment was ultimately successful in improving his CGD.  

“It was hard to watch him go through that again, but everyone at Children’s Hospital New Orleans was fantastic,” Lisa said. “We love them, and my son loves them, and Dr. Yu has been such a constant source of support.”  

For Dr. Yu, it has been an honor to care for Elijah and his conditions.  

"Working with patients like Elijah, who face complex and challenging conditions, is at the heart of why I became a physician,” Dr. Yu said. “While I know the road can be tough, my dedication to compassionate care and achieving positive clinical outcomes remains unwavering. Every child we treat here deserves the best chance at a healthier future, and it's a privilege to be a part of that journey." 

The second bone marrow transplant brought significant improvement, but Elijah still experiences health challenges. Currently, Dr. Yu is managing issues with his kidneys alongside the NF1. He has been cured of CGD, and Elijah’s quality of life has greatly improved; he is now able to attend school, and he enjoys doing arts and crafts and loves anything related to Pokémon and Sonic. 

"We are incredibly grateful for the care and support we've received at Children's Hospital New Orleans,” Lisa said. “It's been a challenging journey, but the dedication of the medical team has made all the difference.”  

To learn more about the bone marrow transplant program, please see: