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Bea was about 15 months old when she was diagnosed with a serious immune disorder. It came as a surprise because she hadn’t been sick that much as a baby; that was because some of her immune system was working, but not all. But then she got thrush and suddenly lost two pounds. Though her pediatrician wanted to wait a week to see if she’d gain weight, her parents, Jenny and Andar, were too worried to wait. They took her to the emergency room.
That’s when they learned she had a kidney infection, and the doctors believed she’d had it for a long time. It had gone unnoticed because she didn’t produce a fever. The doctors told Jenny and Andar that the issue was bigger than a kidney infection and sent Bea to an immunologist for more testing.
Two girls, one diagnosis
Bea was diagnosed with severe combined immunodeficiency. Her parents were told that she needed to have an umbilical cord blood transplant as soon as possible. Jenny was pregnant at the time, and the doctors told her there was a 25% chance that the baby she was carrying would have the same disorder. Two days after Grace was born, they learned that she did. By this time Bea was being treated by Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg at Duke University Medical Center, and they made plans for both girls to receive transplants.
The gift of cord blood, made possible through research
Bea and Grace were treated with transplants using donated umbilical cord blood. Years ago, a baby’s umbilical cord blood was regularly thrown away after the baby’s birth. Today, the medical community realizes the value of cord blood. Researchers have learned that a baby’s cord blood is rich with the blood-forming cells that are needed for a marrow transplant.
Cord blood was ready and available for Bea and Grace, thanks to researchers who had discovered its value as a treatment option, and thanks to the mothers who donated their babies’ cord blood to a public bank.
Today, cord blood may be considered the best transplant option for some patients, especially those who are difficult to match or who need a transplant quickly. And while cord blood was once used almost exclusively for children, scientists have learned that using two cord blood units to increase cell volume is an increasingly important option for older patients.
Donated cord blood brings new life
It didn’t take long to find matching cord blood units for both girls. Two-year-old Bea received her transplant on June 3, 2010, and her sister Grace – only two months old – received hers the next day. The girls stayed in adjoining rooms at the hospital. Andar served as caregiver for Bea while Jenny cared for Grace. The two transplant days were happy days for Andar and Jenny; they knew those cord blood cells were giving their girls a chance for a better, healthier life.
Today, Bea and Grace are thriving. Their immune systems have reached normal levels. That means they’ve begun to do the things that are normal for most children, like go to preschool, splash in the neighborhood pool, eat in a restaurant, visit a water park. Their family is looking ahead now to a future filled with promise for the two sisters.
Every Patient Counts!
Medical science is amazing. What is considered impossible today will be standard procedure tomorrow—standard procedures that can offer hope to future patients like Bea and her sister Grace. That’s why investing in research is so important.
Each year 10,000 patients need a marrow transplant from an unrelated donor, but only half receive one. Every Patient Counts!SM is a $4 million fundraising campaign that celebrates each life saved through marrow transplant but focuses on those patients still searching for help.
Contribute to Every Patient Counts! and invest in the science of transplant. It will pay dividends in more patients living longer, healthier lives.
We know marrow transplants. We know the barriers to transplant. And we know our patients can’t overcome them without you. Half is not enough. Every Patient Counts!