The Dennis family lived in quarantine and practiced social distancing long before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ryan Dennis, now six, was diagnosed with severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), a genetic condition that made him immunocompromised and at high risk of illness. SCID, pronounced “skid,” is one of the 400+ rare, chronic disorders, known as primary immunodeficiencies (PI), where the body’s immune system functions improperly.
Ryan was diagnosed when he was six days old after a newborn screening test detected the condition. SCID is typically fatal within the first two years of life unless the patient receives an immune-restoring treatment, like a bone marrow transplant or gene therapy.
“A simple cold might turn into a pneumonia, and then the baby usually dies, because there’s nothing to fight off that infection,” said Bridget Dennis, Ryan’s mother.
The Dennis family immediately started isolating after his diagnosis. The isolation paid off, and Ryan stayed healthy. At seven months old, he received a bone marrow transplant from a German donor.
“It treated his issues and gave him a fully working immune system,” Dennis said. “So now he is living life as a normal little boy.”
Ryan spent 43 days in the hospital. He then visited the hospital three to four times a week following his release. He spent 15 months recovering. In total, Ryan spent 22 months in isolation with his family.
The family re-entered life with baby steps. Just when they were getting comfortable, the COVID-19 pandemic happened. They re-adopted their old habits including frequent hand washing and is olation.
These days, Ryan, who loves soccer, reading, and Captain America, has fully functioning cells. He and his two older siblings have been distance learning during the pandemic.
The Immune Deficiency Foundation (IDF) has been a helpful resource for the Dennis family. The nonprofit works to improve the diagnosis, treatment, and quality of life for people with PI.
Dennis has been an active member of IDF’s SCID group. She wants to help future generations of parents and children who have the condition.
“SCID is not a death sentence,” she said. “It is treatable and it’s scary, but it’s doable.”
HRSA Acknowledgement/Disclaimer: This project is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of an award totaling $2.97 million with 0% financed with nongovernmental sources. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by HRSA, HHS, or the U.S. Government.