9-year-old girl succumbs to rare blood disorder Kendall Burrows dies in her family's arms at Johns Hopkins

June 02, 1996|By Scott Wilson | Scott Wilson,SUN STAFF

Her immune system exhausted, Kendall Burrows died early Friday evening in the arms of friends and relatives at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, a 9-year-old victim of her own blood.

Her mother said Kendall "fought until the end." The Hunt Valley girl succumbed to a rare autoimmune disorder that caused her blood to produce antibodies that acted as enemies of her own red blood cells and clotting agents.

Debi and Dave Burrows, Kendall's parents, spent their daughter's final hours by her bedside along with her teen-age brother and sister, grandparents, two aunts and a family friend.

When she died, Johns Hopkins doctors told the family to leave the room while they removed feeding tubes from Kendall's body. Then relatives were invited to stay with the girl, once a student at Pot Spring Elementary School in Timonium, for as long as they wanted.

"She pretty much died in our arms," Debi Burrows said last night. "The doctors at Johns Hopkins are incredible people. After it took place they said they would get her all cleaned up and then we could hold her in our arms -- if that's what we wanted."

"We were at the hospital a couple more hours. Just consoling her and comforting her."

The family allowed Hopkins doctors to conduct an autopsy, hoping they might be able to learn from Kendall's death.

"It's very difficult because this is one of those autoimmune diseases they know so little about," Debi Burrows said. "This is the most severe case they've seen at Hopkins in a child.

"We want them to find out whatever they need to find out, so that this never has to happen again. We don't want another child to have to go through what Kendall went through."

In her last month at Johns Hopkins Hospital's pediatric intensive care unit, Kendall's system was being flushed daily with 40 to 60 units of donor blood. Despite her death the previous night, the American Red Cross held a scheduled blood drive for Kendall at the Lutherville Donor Center yesterday to a rousing turnout.

"Dave and I were there all day," Debi Burrows said. "It was a tremendous outpouring from the community.

"We never had to think about where her blood products were coming from. To have the feeling that they were always available was such a nice feeling. We wanted to make sure that other people could feel that way also. We wanted to give something back."

The Red Cross has held a series of blood drives for Kendall, who had been in the intensive care unit since May 10.

Kendall has suffered from two blood disorders, hemolytic anemia and thrombocytopenic purpura, since she was 3. She also suffered from a related disease that resulted in a thickening of the blood, causing poor circulation in the heart, liver and kidneys.

"She had an illness that we realized at the start had a very, very bad prognosis," said Dr. Paul M. Ness, director of transfusion medicine at Johns Hopkins Hospital and head of blood services for the Red Cross. "She was treated very aggressively. And despite the help of her doctors, and many, many volunteers, and her family who worked very hard, unfortunately all of that didn't save her."

A viewing is scheduled from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. tomorrow and Tuesday at Ruck Funeral Home in Towson. A funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Towson Presbyterian Church.

The family has asked that memorial donations be made to the Johns Hopkins Hospital hematology department.

Pub Date: 6/02/96

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