Phoenix Children's Hospital saves boy after diagnosing him with one-in-a-million disease

PHOENIX - At just 16 months old, Valley toddler James Zintak was a healthy child, but overnight that all seemed to change.

"All of a sudden he got really sick, just like a flu and really coughy...so we went to the hospital and they started treating him, and he wasn't getting better," his mom, Samantha, remembered.

In fact, he was getting worse. He would be diagnosed and treated for pneumonia, but because of a very bad fungal infection in his lung called Aspergillus, he would have to have half of a lung removed.

He spent weeks in the ICU at Phoenix Children's Hospital. Doctors at PCH, along with James' parents, weren't convinced pneumonia and Aspergillus and the lobectomy that followed, were the only things wrong with baby James, so they did even more testing -- some for diseases that kids have a one-in-a-million chance of contracting.

They discovered James had Chronic Granulomatous Disease, a disease that affects literally one in 1 million children and aggressively attacks the immune system. 

"Not every doctor and not every hospital would have run this test," Samantha told us. She is thankful they did.

But there was now a big problem. CGD only has one cure, a bone marrow transplant, and James had to be healthy and strong to go through the required chemotherapy and transplant. Additionally, a transplant could take months, which was time James didn't have.

"Since we don't have another child, it had to be from a random donor," Samantha said.

According to the boy's father, Dan, there were many restrictions for their son. "We couldn't even bring him out in public... we used to call him the bubble boy," he said.

Their immediate mission was to keep germs and James far away from each other. Just as James became strong enough for a transplant, a donor was found. 

"We had the best doctor in the world, Dr. Douglas. She just believed that it was right, and we trusted her, and thank God we did because you know...look at him now," gushed Samantha.

"We never thought he was going to be able to go to school and he started kindergarten this year."

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