Extreme Team builds dream yard for little girl battling rare syndrome

For most of her life, Alexandria ‘Dria’ Cresci has lived in isolation.

She’s never gone trick-or-treating. She’s never soared through the air on a swing. She’s never even been to a playground.

The Post Falls child was diagnosed with complete DiGeorge syndrome about four years ago. In short, her thymus gland doesn’t work the way it is supposed to. Dr. Aleksandra Petrovic has worked with Dria Cresci for years. She specializes in immunology and bone marrow transplant at Seattle Children’s Hospital.

Dr. Petrovic said that this heart-shaped gland in the chest is the powerhouse for a person’s immune system.

“The reason that this gland is important is that it educates parts of our immune system so that our immune system then functions in a cohesive and organized fashion,” Dr. Petrovic said. “Without that organization, the immune system can become disregulated and go awry.”

Kayla Cresci, Dria Cresci’s mom, said her daughter’s condition is similar to what many know as bubble boy disease. Without a functioning immune system, a common cold could kill Dria Cresci.

“We’re just confined to the walls of our home,” Kayla Cresci said.

Dr. Petrovic said the syndrome can cause issues with the body’s response to infections. At one point, Dria Cresci’s immune system even started attacking her skin, causing rashes and lesions so bad, she was in intensive care for months.

“She has had a long list of infections that she has suffered through for her first five years of live,” Dr. Petrovic said.

All that time, she’s been waiting to get a thymus transplant. Duke University Hospital is the only place in the country that does the surgery.

The Cresci family got the news they’d been waiting for earlier this year. So they flew to North Carolina for the surgery on an Aero Angel flight. A.J. Cresci still remembers how it felt knowing that hope was on the horizon for his daughter.

“That was surreal. We’ve been waiting for it for so long,” A.J. Cresci said.

The transplant went well, according to Dr. Petrovic. Dria Cresci spent several weeks recovering in North Carolina and then, with help from Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, Inc., she and her family flew to Seattle for more recovery.

It’s been three months since the transplant and the Cresci family is still limited to the confines of the apartment they rent in Seattle. Dr. Petrovic said it takes several months until the immune system is built up enough for her to leave her life of isolation behind. Because Dria Cresci has had some complications due to her unique abnormality, her mother said it could take even longer than that for her daughter to really feel safe in a public place.

That’s why the Four News Now Extreme Team is partnering with Wishing Star Foundation to build the yard of Dria Cresci’s dreams. When she comes home to Post Falls, her yard will be completely decked out for her and her brothers to safely play.

“The kid is just dying to live,” Kayla Cresci said. “I cannot thank a Wishing Star Foundation and Mark Peterson with the Extreme Team for doing this. This is so amazing to be going home to.”

The Cresci family could come home as soon as late July, but that will depend on how Dria Cresci’s recovery goes. They do know the end is in sight.

“My hope for Dria is just to be able to live like any other child,” Kayla Cresci said.