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Air Force doctor's persistence leads to diagnosis of rare disease

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Erin M. Peterson
  • 59th Medical Wing Public Affairs
A young patient at San Antonio Military Medical Center-South was recently diagnosed with a rare disease that mainly affects African American females.

Lakeshia Blueitt, 17-year-old daughter of retired Master Sgt. Curtis Blueitt, started experiencing major changes in her body over a two-week period. Her skin color was darkening, her menstrual cycle stopped, she had a rapid onset of skin problems and she was losing weight.

After numerous medical appointments, Lakeshia was referred to the SAMMC-South dermatology clinic for her skin condition. After a blood test indicated that Lakeshia's testosterone levels were much higher than normal for someone her age, she was referred to Lt. Col. (Dr.) David Paul, chief of pediatric endocrinology.

"When we got to Dr. Paul things started turning around," said Teresa Blueitt, Lakeshia's mother. "Dr. Paul knew something was off about her symptoms, so he contacted endocrinologists across the country. He couldn't rest not knowing."

With further lab testing and analysis of family medical history, Dr. Paul ruled out all possible causes of the high levels of insulin and testosterone in Lakeshia's body.

However, further research showed that according to a study by the National Institute of Health, type B insulin resistance syndrome is a manifestation of autoantibodies to the insulin receptor. An autoantibody is a type of protein manufactured by the immune system that works against the individual's own proteins.

With type B insulin resistance, the body creates insulin, but cannot absorb it. This causes an overabundance of glucose in the body.

In a 28-year study, 24 patients were diagnosed with type B insulin resistance. Of those 24 patients, 20 were female, and 21 were African American.

After researching studies published on type B insulin resistance, Dr. Paul contacted the National Institute of Health and presented his case on their hotline. His conclusive results and extensive tests immediately grabbed the attention of the top researcher for type B insulin resistance. The NIH paid for Lakeshia and Teresa to travel to Bethesda, Md., for continued testing and treatment.

"Dr. Paul was very hands-on. He escorted us to each clinic for the required tests," said Teresa Blueitt. "Five days after we met Dr. Paul, we were scheduled to leave on vacation. He drove to the airport at 4:45 in the morning to draw blood for an additional test."

Creating a regimen following the protocol of the NIH, Dr. Paul is continuing treatment on Lakeshia. She has undergone two immune suppression drug intravenous infusions, taken two types of medication to suppress her immune system, and has been given doses of steroids. The idea is to use lower doses of multiple drugs to suppress the immune system. This will lessen the side effects, as opposed to high doses of one medication.

Today, Lakeshia is in remission. Her skin is returning to its normal color. Her progress will be tracked by the NIH every six months for the next two years.

"With continued therapy, it is my hope that Lakeshia stays in remission," said Dr. Paul.

The Blueitt family is thankful for Dr. Paul's work. Lakeshia's father credits him for his persistence and dedication.

"He is the example that all doctors should follow," said Sergeant Blueitt. "He treated Lakeshia like she was his own child."