Now that it is all behind him, Dr. Lloyd Kramer can call the series of events "spectacular", and say "there aren't enough words to describe it."
At the time it was going on, however, it was all simply part of a desperate fight to save the life of 5-day-old William Moore, a fight that ended up involving Fairfax Hosital, Allegheny Airlines, the National Institutes of Health, the Red Cross, the Michigan Air National Guard, Parke-Davis & Co. and a flight from Detroit to Washington by an F-105 jet fighter.
In his fifth day of life and second day home from the hospital, William Moore developed a 102-degree fever, began eating poorly and became irritable. His parents took him to Loudoun County Memorial Hospital, where it was determined he had a sort of general infection, and he was transferred to Fairfax Hospital, which has a newborn intensive care unit and serves as a referral center for Northern Virginia area hospitals.
The baby had lesions on his scalp, chicken pox-type lesions," said Kramer, who is director of the Fairfax unit, "and we were afraid the baby had herpes encephalitis," a viral disease that usually is fatal to newborns, and almost invariably leaves those who survive brain-damaged.
Dr. Raul Weintzen, a Georgetown University specialist in pediatric infectious disease, happened to be at Fairfax when the baby was brought in on the afternoon of May 30, and he agreed with Kramer's initial diagnosis.
The physicians agreed that the only hope for the child lay in the use of ara-A, an experimental drug whose development was announced last August by Parke-Davis, in Detroit, Ara-A, which in initial trials reduced the death rate from herpes encephalitis from 70 percent to less than 28 percent, is the first drug to prove effective in combating infection by a potentially lethal virus.
Weintzen "made some calls to Parke-Davis in Detroit and was able to have a ara-A released from protocol," said Kramer, meaning the company agreed to have the drug used on a patient who was not part of a clinical trial. "It's usually only released as part of a study," Kramer said.
Parke-Davis agreed to fly to drug in via Allegheny Airlines," to arrive at 7;09 p.m. said Kramer.
"We got down to National (Airport) and I went to the ticket counter to ask where the baggage claim area would be," said Ronald Moore, the baby's 20-year-old father, who had been sent to pick up the drug.
"But when I got there I saw on the screen that the flight had been canceled and I went to a phone and called Dr. Kramer."
I turned out that Detroit had had a major thunderstorm, and the radar at Detroit's airport had been knocked out. "Every hour that went by this kid was potentially being damaged more," said Kramer. "He was barely breathing, was running 102.8 (temperature), was spastic and having seizures. He was really hurting, and the only medication that could help him was at the Detroit airport. The father even wanted to drive to Detroit."
"Mr. and Mrs. Moore were quite upset," said Roger Richards, supervisor of customer relations for Allegheny at the airport.
After checking with the hospital and determining there was a genuine emergency, Richard "contacted . . . the American Red Cross in Fairfax County and (they) worked with the disaster relief people in Detroit to contact the (armed) services to find out if any of them had a flight coming this way."
In the meantime, said Kramer, Weintzen was calling all local hospitals, and some not so local, trying to locate a temporary supply of the drug. Ironically, Fairfax had used the last of its supply about a week earlier, and Children's Hospital National Medical Center, had returned unused doses to Parke-Davis as the company requires about a week earlier.
"He was finally able to find a vial of the drug in one of the research labs at NIH," said Kramer, "but the only trouble was that the guy who controlled that lab was in Vermont and we had to track him down. We finally got a hold of him and he agreed to release it. We had to have somebody break into the office and get it, and we had it here shortly after midnight."
At the same time, Richards and the Red Cross were finding transportation to bring a 10-day supply of the drug from Detroit. The Michigan Air National Guard sent a helicopter from Selfridge Air Force Base, outside Detroit, to the Detroit airport, to bring the drug from Allegheny there.
The drug was then loaded aboard an F-105, which made a special flight to Washington, arriving at Andrews Air Force Base at about 4 a.m. A few hours later, military police delivered the drug to Fairfax.
By the time the medication arrived from Detroit, the initial dose from NIH had begun to take effect. "Six hours after he got the medication the fever broke," said Kramer, "and within five days he was acting normally."
Yesterday William Moore returned home to his parents apartment in Herndon. It is too early to know if he escaped the disease unscathed, but at this point, said Kramer, he appears "so normal that it's very encouraging."
Ronald Moore is thrilled it worked out for his son, but "I thought the only chance we had would be if we were the Rockefellers or Kennedys or something. Then maybe we could have chartered a plane or everybody would have taken right off and helped us. But we were just average people, and everybody helped."