A mum has to bathe her baby in bleach to help him shed his skin due to a rare disease which leaves him covered in scales. Alicia Barber, 27, washes her one-year-old son Jamison in Clorox twice a week for 15 minutes before exfoliating him with a mitt to rub away hard skin and ward off infection. Jamison suffers from Harlequin ichthyosis, a severe skin disease caused by a genetic mutation which affects around one in 500,000 births. Infants with the condition are born covered with a hard layer of protein in the outer layer of the skin, which forms scale-like diamond-shaped plates, separated by deep cracks. The keratin shell makes it near impossible for those with the condition to move around freely and can cause breathing difficulties as well as leaving sufferers at high risk of infection. Former waitress Alicia, who is now Jamison’s full-time carer, found out about the diagnosis while seven months pregnant. She was initially expecting twins following a battle with fertility issues, but one foetus died in the womb. Learning that the surviving baby might not survive was very difficult for her. Medics recommended Alicia terminate the pregnancy, but despite being given just a 2% chance of survival, Jamison has defied the odds to make it to his first birthday. The disease means he must endure a grueling treatment regime which includes bleach baths and a prescription of morphine to help ease the excruciating pain.
Alicia said she has also struggled with comments from cruel strangers who called her son ‘creepy’ – and said she is keen to raise awareness about the little-known condition. The mum-of-three, of Chattaroy, Washington, USA, said: ‘I had never heard of Harlequin ichthyosis before the doctor took me aside and showed me a text book with pictures of babies with this condition. ‘They had no faces, no hands, no feet and no fingers and toes. ‘It was really traumatizing and they recommended that I terminate the pregnancy. ‘While deciding what to do I was told I’d gone past the point of termination so I had to go full-term.
‘It was scary, I didn’t know what was going to happen with him and the birth was pretty traumatic as well. ‘I had an emergency c-section because they were concerned that a natural birth would cause tearing of his skin fissures. ‘I also needed four-and-half blood transfusions and didn’t get to meet him for a few days. ‘I broke down when I saw him – I wanted to hold him and tell him it’s going to be OK. I knew he was going to fight.’ The skin abnormalities associated with harlequin ichthyosis disrupt the skins protective barrier, making it difficult to control water loss, regulate their body temperature, and fight infections.
Because of this, Jamison requires 24-hour care, and the family get 187 hours a month appointed care from their hospital. Alongside the bleach baths, he must take two 45 minute baths per day during which he is bathed in water and rubbed with a sandpaper rag to help him shed his skin. Doctors prescribed Jamison baths in household bleach, the type you buy at the grocery store. He has two of these per week for around 15 minutes. Alicia said: ‘It is painful for him so he is on morphine, which is scary because he has respiratory issues and it can slow things down and make him sleepy ‘He does accidentally swallow the bleach when I’m pouring it over his head and it occasionally gets in his eyes.
‘It is something I dread because he is in pain. He does cry and I have cried quite a few times. ‘If he didn’t have these baths he could end up in the hospital with an infection. ‘We have to keep a very very tidy, clean home at all times and check him every couple of hours for any sign of skin infection.’ Alicia, who lives with her partner Kolton Stam, 26, has two other children, Jamison’s older brothers Dustin, seven, and River, six. She said: ‘At first they were a bit scared of him but that quickly changed.
‘They kept worrying and asking, ‘how long have we got left with him?’ ‘We do get comments from strangers and the worst ones are about us being neglectful. ‘Someone said we were bad parents letting him get so sunburnt because his skin is quite red in appearance.