Cady Pierce to represent West Virginia for Children’s Miracle Network

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – It was supposed to be your average, run-of-the-mill Fourth of July weekend. Leslie and Jay Pierce of New Martinsville were still celebrating the arrival of their 2-week-old baby girl, Cadence. MaryBeth Hummel, M.D., geneticist at West Virginia University Children’s Hospital, was spending the holiday with family in Indiana.

But things took a terrible turn and the paths of the Pierces and Dr. Hummel crossed – much to the benefit of baby Cady.
“She stopped what she was doing on that beautiful July day, and she left her family to save mine,” Leslie said of Hummel.

Days earlier, Cady wouldn’t wake up. Leslie rushed her to their local emergency room. Her prognosis quickly became very grim. No one knew what was wrong, so she was transferred to WVU Children’s Hospital. After days in the pediatric intensive care unit, she continued to linger in a coma and had lost three pounds since birth. Every specialist was consulted. No one had ever seen anything like this before.

“Her liver was swelled up, but it wasn’t a liver problem. Even though she was vomiting, it wasn’t a stomach problem. She eventually had three grand mal seizures, but it wasn’t a neurology issue. It wasn’t an infectious disease issue. There wasn’t one culprit we could point at and go, ‘Well, we’re going to fix this, and then everything else will straighten out.’ We hadn’t found it,” Leslie said.

With all other paths exhausted, Cady’s doctors consulted Hummel and read her the case over the phone in hopes that her vast knowledge could shed some light on this perplexing mystery. Hummel immediately recognized her condition, left her own family and was at Cady’s bedside four hours later.

Hummel diagnosed Cady with propionic academia (PA), a rare disorder that is inherited from both parents. Individuals with PA cannot break down parts of protein and some types of fat due to a non-functioning enzyme called PCC. This inability causes a build-up of dangerous acids and toxins, which can cause damage to the person’s organs. PA can also damage the brain, heart and liver and cause seizures and delays to normal development like walking and talking.

To date, Cady, now 15-years-old, is the only child born in West Virginia with this disease who has lived to diagnosis.

The Pierce family was told that it was likely that Cady would never walk, talk, hear or see. But, that is not the case.

She plays percussion in her school band, has taken tap and ballet and played soccer for many of her years. She enjoys her friends, her schooling and her life.

“No matter what else happens, as long as she’s breathing, there’s hope. As long as you’ve got something to work with, there’s possibility,” Leslie said. “We’ve moved mountains for her, and we always will.”

This year, she will represent West Virginia as the 2012 Children’s Miracle Network Champion Child. In September, she will join champions from all across the country in Orlando, Fla., and Washington, D.C., to do media interviews, meet with congressmen and celebrities, visit the Disney Parks and be celebrated for overcoming life’s toughest battles. A send-off event will be held in her honor in August.

As the Champion Child, Cady will attend various events across the state and region this year.

On Saturday, Cady will do the coin toss at the annual Gold-Blue Spring Football Game at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown.

To see a video about Cady’s story, visit

For more information: Angela Jones, News Service Coordinator, 304-293-7087
asj: 04-17-12