Jonathan Pitre diagnosed with chronic graft-versus-host disease

Jonathan Pitre has been diagnosed with chronic graft-versus-host disease — a condition that could complicate his recovery for years to come.

Pitre, 17, has been in a Minnesota hospital for the past two weeks following arthroscopic surgery to remove his gallbladder. Doctors had hoped the operation would relieve his debilitating nausea, but the procedure did not alleviate those symptoms.

Pitre’s gallbladder was badly scarred and needed to be removed, but it’s now apparent the pear-shaped organ was not the only thing causing his nausea.

The Russell teen has been diagnosed with chronic graft-versus-host disease (GvHD), a complication that frequently arises in the aftermath of a donor stem cell transplant. The disease, which can increase a patient’s risk of infection, occurs in about 40 per cent of people who receive donor stem cell transplants.

“He really has had everything imaginable,” said his mother, Tina Boileau.

A healthy immune system takes a firewagon approach to trouble inside the body and dispatches white blood cells to halt the spread of bacteria, viruses and mutant cells — anything the immune system regards as a foreign invader.

Chronic GvHD is a complex condition in which white blood cells produced by donor stem cells turn on a patient’s normal tissue cells and attack them as “foreign.”

GvHd can produce a wide variety of symptoms that can last for months, even years. The disease can attack any organ system, but typically affects the gastrointestinal system, liver, skin or lungs.

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