2023 V-RED First Place Winner

Lindo Terry Spencer Jr., MD

Pediatric Pulmonologist
Providence, Rhode Island

Eighteen-year-old Lexey LaBonte caught COVID-19 in December 2020. As the new year began, she developed a persistent cough that continued to progress, which led to sinus pain and ear infections. Lexey’s former pediatrician referred her to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist, who prescribed a nasal spray that is used to prevent and treat allergy symptoms (stuffy/runny nose, itchy eyes/nose/throat and sneezing). The ENT also mentioned the possibility of inserting ear tubes.

Since Lexey’s cough worsened, she was then referred by her former pediatrician to pulmonologist Dr. Lindo Terry Spencer Jr., whom she met in February 2021. An aggressive treatment plan began with prednisone and multiple inhalers. While the prednisone helped, the symptoms would return as soon as Lexey stopped taking it. In addition to the cough, Lexey also developed body aches, bloody noses, rashes, sudden weight loss, and ear issues. Ear tubes were placed in April, but Lexey’s hearing loss continued to deteriorate and as time went on her cough and breathing worsened. Her pulmonologist ordered various tests and imaging, including allergy blood testing, x-rays, CT scans, and a sputum induction.

The results from the imaging were consistent with aspergillosis/other fungal infections, yet the blood tests were negative. This led Lexey’s pulmonologist to dig deeper as her symptoms were “keeping [him] up at night.” He ordered blood tests that revealed results consistent with GPA, and Lexey was referred to a rheumatologist. She needed a lung biopsy before the diagnosis could be made, which took place in June. After that, Lexey was officially diagnosed with GPA, and she received rituximab infusions in August. Although the infusions helped her symptoms, she still needed hearing aids. Lexey continues to receive the infusions and had another round this past December.

“I am incredibly grateful for the efforts that Dr. Spencer made to uncover my diagnosis,” Lexey said. “From the first appointment he was committed to making me feel better again. My journey, along with the help of my medical team, has inspired me to pursue a career in medicine in the future.” Lexey lives in Portsmouth, Rhode Island.