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Duprey home following treatment at Duke

PLATTSBURGH Its been a long road for Randy Duprey in his battle with scleroderma, and though it may not be over, for now, it has brought him home. Randy, his wife, Kate, and their 11-month-old son, Alek, returned from Duke University in Durham, N.C., June 7, after 130 days in the Tar Heel State. The trip was no vacation, however, as Randy was there to undergo a stem cell transplant in order to reverse the effects of his disease. The procedure consisted of Randy having to undergo five days of intense chemotherapy in order to essentially wipe out his immune system. On the sixth day, Randy received stem cells donated by his brother, Kevin, which were used to regenerate Randys immune system. After the transplant was complete, Randy underwent observation and was released on an outpatient basis. When we left the hospital, it really was a waiting game, said Kate. The Dupreys remained in Durham while Randy was put through physical therapy and put on a strict diet. He also had limited contact with others to prevent the spread of germs to his fragile immune system, said Kate. He returned to the clinic every day, having to donate as many as seven vials of blood each visit to test his various levels, such as his red and white blood cell counts. Initially, Randy experienced an inflammation in his lungs which resulted in him being put on oxygen and leaving him feeling out of breath. Fifteen feet felt like walking a mile, Randy recalled. Eventually, the inflammation subsided with the use of anti-inflammatory medication and Randy began to see a dramatic improvement in his mobility. He was able to put his hand on top of his head, he was picking up Alek and he was even walking up and down stairs without trouble, Kate said. It was just phenomenal. That progress, however, regressed to a certain extent following heart complications Randy later experienced. As a result, Randys red and white blood cell levels were unbalanced and he was taken off the anti-inflammatory drug. As the drug passed through his system, Randys mobility decreased, though it still surpassed the amount of movement he had prior to the procedure. In addition, he still saw more elasticity in his skin and increased rotation in his arms and wrists, both of which were casualties of his case of scleroderma. The highs and lows left them on an emotional roller coaster, said Kate. Were both very positive people, but this disease wears on you, she said. When youre up, youre up, and when youre down, you feel way down. Theres no happy medium, said Randy. Now home, Randys doctors at Duke University are working with his cardiologist here to see if he can be put back on the anti-inflammatory medicine which gave him back so much of his movement. Randy is also expected to return to Duke to give a bone marrow sample so doctors may compare it toward a healthy sample from another donor. They say the process [to examine the bone marrow] takes about a month, said Randy. Then they should be able to see whats causing my levels to be off and hopefully be able to fix the problem. Depending on what doctors find, Randy could need to undergo a second stem cell transplant, which would require an additional donation from Randys brother, though that is still early to determine, he said. We dont feel like were completely out of the woods, but we do feel that every minute we were down at Duke, we were there for a reason and he is a much healthier person, said Kate. As scleroderma is essentially an autoimmune disease which attacks a persons joints, skin, and organs, the amount of damage the disease was doing to her husbands body would have eventually taken its toll, said Kate. He was dying. It wouldve been a matter of time that he would have literally suffocated in his own body, she said. I was going downhill at such a rapid rate before, that I couldnt afford not to try, he said. It wasnt fun, but I believe 100 percent it was well worth it. Whats also helped the Dupreys is the amount of support theyve received from the public, both financially and emotionally, said Randy. The amount of comments the Dupreys have seen on their blog, www.thedupreyfamily.blogspot.com, has also meant a lot to both of them, he said. If youre having a rough day, you just open that blog up and theres one or two new comments, and it lifts your spirits a little bit, said Randy. People I havent seen in years are coming out of the woodwork to leave messages. It makes you feel good. Randy and Kate Duprey recently returned home following a stem cell transplant and several months of physical therapy at Duke University in North Carolina. The couple, holding their 11-month-old son, Alek, are appreciative of the support theyve received from friends, family and well-wishers. Photo submitted by Kate Duprey

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