How to help
Ala Harbin has set up a GoFundMe account to help with daughter Djustus Cobb’s care.
After years of struggling to find answers from doctors in Georgia, Gainesville resident Ala Harbin returned home from Denver in July believing she may have her young daughter “on the right track to recovery.”
“I feel like this is the best decision I’ve ever made in my life,” Harbin said earlier this week.
She and 6-year-old Djustus Cobb traveled to National Jewish Health, which specializes in coordinated care for lung, heart and immune diseases, for a fresh look at Djustus’ long battle with severe allergies, asthma and painful eczema.
“I am very pleased with all the care we received,” Harbin said. “It was like living in a movie, like in a dream. They worked their magic and her skin is like a 100 times better.”
Djustus has suffered throughout her life from the afflictions, which have prevented her from enjoying many foods, outdoor play or any kind of heightened activity.
Before the Denver trip, medical tests showed that Djustus was allergic to nuts, dust mites, grass, pollen and “all kinds of environmental stuff.”
“Even the air and the sun don’t do her any good,” Harbin said in a June interview.
During the two weeks in Denver, the mother and daughter learned about skin care and proper bathing. Djustus underwent extensive skin tests, then “food challenges” to see how she would respond to certain foods.
Her body especially rejected peanut butter, which caused her lips to swell and throat to burn. She needed an immediate shot from an EpiPen, which opens airways in her lungs.
On the bright side, she responded favorably to eggs, almonds, sunflower seed and milk.
Doctors also found out Djustus has a vitamin D deficiency and low iron, and that she’s a carrier of the lupus gene.
They don’t know if she will develop lupus when she gets older or could pass it to her own children, Harbin said.
Harbin left the hospital with a home care plan, equipping her, among other things, to respond to certain emergencies.
One of her biggest concerns is her daughter’s reaction to sun exposure, which has caused problems.
But rather than “running to the doctor and freaking out or shoving medicine down her throat,” Harbin knows she can apply a wet wrap therapy, dressings that have been soaked in warm water with a dry layer applied on top.
“I learned about that (in Denver) and was never offered it in Georgia,” Harbin said.
Another concern is just making sure she stays healthy in school through a specialized education plan.
Also, Djustus has new medications, including a skin cream that Harbin particularly likes.
Overall, getting Djustus back to stable health is “taking time,” Harbin said. “We need to get her immune system intact, make sure that it’s working good.”
Harbin also got help at the hospital through a parent support group.
“I met so many people from all over the world,” she said. “It made me feel like I was really in a good place.”
The experience confirmed her good feelings about the hospital, which she found online after praying for guidance.
“I put my faith into that hospital,” Harbin said. “There are a lot of hospitals over the world, but there was a reason we got into that hospital.”