Feb. 5, 2009 | For 5-year-old Helen Woodyard and her family, the 320-mile trip from their Little Rock home to Dallas for her medical treatment became all too familiar.
Helen, now 6, needed specialized light treatments to control an uncommon skin disease she was diagnosed with at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) in February 2007.
For Helen’s parents, Bill and Peyton Woodyard, and her twin sister, Ellie, her diagnosis was life-altering. The family had to put life on hold for several weeks at a time as Helen underwent as many as five treatments a week, with each session consisting of about 22 minutes in the UVA-1 phototherapy bed at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.
Though Helen’s 54 light therapy sessions were successful, the generosity of her family and friends have ensured much easier access to the necessary treatment should the need arise.
Through a series of fundraising functions and letter campaigns by Helen’s family, $70,000 was raised to buy UAMS a UVA-1 phototherapy machine of its own, which is temporarily situated on the first floor of the UAMS Outpatient Center.
“Our family felt like we had an opportunity to raise some money to make sure other families have easy access to the kind of first-rate care Arkansans expect from UAMS,” said Bill Woodyard, Helen’s grandfather. “We were lucky to have family in Dallas to stay with and a way to get Helen there for her treatment, but others might not be that fortunate. It’s a tribute to the generous friends this family has and it’s an honor to share it with UAMS.”
Diagnosed by Jay Kincannon, M.D., a UAMS pediatric dermatologist, Helen’s non-systemic plaque morphea can affect a patient’s mobility and cause scarring and sometimes disfigurement, making it crucial to make the long trips to Dallas to utilize one of only six of the country’s UVA-1 phototherapy machines.
“While Helen’s morphea has not gone into remission, there has been a noticeable difference and softening to her skin as a result of the UVA-1 phototherapy treatment,” Kincannon said. “The machine is a state-of-the-art piece of equipment that we are extremely fortunate to have and one that we will utilize to its fullest potential.”
The UVA-1 machine, which looks similar to a tanning bed, doesn’t burn patients as its rays penetrate far beneath the outer layers of the skin, down into the deeper dermis where it causes immuno-supression in treating the disease. Kincannon said the new UVA-1 machine is being used for research and in treating other skin diseases, and has been kept busy since its recent arrival at UAMS.
For Helen, donating the phototherapy machine through the generosity of her family and friends is a much simpler pleasure.
“It’s cool to put one in Arkansas,” she said. “It’ll help people here.”