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'Bubble Boy' and mom spend 332 days in protected hospital room

Kaiser Permanente medical team saved Baby Ezra's life by detecting his immune deficiency.

SAN DIEGO — Nobody likes to spend the night in the hospital, but what if you had to stay there for 332 days in a row? In this Zevely Zone, I went to Oceanside to meet the miraculous bubble boy. 

In 2020, Elizabeth Alvarez and her husband Carlos enjoyed a healthy pregnancy as their family prepared for their second child. "The delivery was quick and easy," said Elizabeth. 

After delivering what appeared to be a healthy baby boy, the last thing Kaiser Permanente wanted to do was tell the family of the child to return to the hospital. But two days after Ezra was born, after the family was already home, a doctor called to tell the family to bring the baby back. "It's terrifying," said Elizabeth. "When I saw the missed calls and notifications on my phone my heart dropped."

Credit: CBS 8

"This is not a common condition," said Dr. Michael Land. He is an Immunologist with Kaiser Permanente. His team discovered Ezra had a life threatening immune deficiency. "The only treatment is protective isolation because if he was to get a cold or a simple virus that most people could survive it would be fatal," said Dr. Land. With no evidence of T-cell function, it looked as if Ezra needed a thymus gland transplant. It's hard to tell a mother to bring her child back to the hospital. "Yes, that is a very challenging conversation," said Dr. Land.

Credit: CBS 8

Elizabeth and Ezra returned to the hospital during a scary time; May of 2020 just as the pandemic was ramping up. "All of the hospital staff had to be fully gowned with masks, and hair nets and shoe covers they had to be fully protected," said Elizabeth.

Credit: CBS 8

"In the old days, doctors would call this the bubble boy syndrome," said Dr. Land. Elizabeth told me, "I asked the doctor what do I take, what do I do? He said well, pack like you are going on a small vacation." She showed me a picture of Ezra putting his hands up on the glass of the hospital room staring out into the world. "Yeah, we did that a lot," said Elizabeth. Ezra's condition was not an easy fix, but this mother was willing to wait for as long as it took. "332 days, not that I was counting, but it was almost exactly a year," said Elizabeth.  

Credit: CBS 8

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Just as unexpected as the phone call that sent them back to the hospital, was the good news that his T-cell counts were improving. "I couldn't believe it, I was shocked," said Elizabeth. Ezra's Thymus gland started working on its own. "It feels great," said Dr. Land. Elizabeth added, "When he called me, he was speechless, you know he said this is a miracle."

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Ezra is once again home and healthy. "He's doing great. He talks a mile a minute," said Elizabeth. During her stay at Kaiser Permanente, she became pregnant with her third child.  The mother and father now have three healthy boys. Elizabeth would like to thank the doctors, nurses and entire medical team who made her feel like family and saved her son's life.

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