Lifesaving cord blood: a baby’s disease is cured by a cord-blood transplant from a public bank

Lifesaving cord blood: a baby’s disease is cured by a cord-blood transplant from a public bank – birth stories

Tracey Dones

My husband, Vic, and I welcomed our first child, Anthony Victor, into the world July 11, 2002. It was the greatest day of our lives. Over the next four months, Anthony grew and thrived–until the morning of Nov. 6.

Anthony woke up vomiting. I became alarmed when he threw up several times within 30 minutes, so Vic and I took him to the pediatrician. A blood test revealed that Anthony’s red blood-cell count and platelets were very low and that his white blood-cell count was extremely high.

The doctor sent us to the emergency room at a nearby hospital, where the doctors performed more tests. One doctor felt Anthony’s liver and spleen and found that they were enlarged. An X-ray revealed that Anthony’s bones were dense, which led to the diagnosis of a rare, life-threatening genetic bone disorder called osteopetrosis.

Needless to say, it was an extremely difficult, heart-wrenching time, as Vic and I didn’t know if our baby would survive. The possibility that this tiny being that we created together could be taken away in his first few months of life was devastating.

Although a bone-marrow transplant would have cured the disease, Anthony’s doctors discussed using cord blood instead because it’s readily available and the rate of rejection is less than that of a bone-marrow transplant. (In addition to treating osteopetrosis, cord-blood transplants can also cure other genetic disorders, such as sickle cell anemia, Fanconi’s anemia and Hodgkin’s disease.)

Cord blood, which can be taken from the umbilical cord at birth in a painless procedure, contains valuable stem cells but is often discarded after birth. Even though we had saved Anthony’s cord blood and banked it at a private facility, we could not use it because it contained the cells that carried osteopetrosis.

We were very lucky, however: Within a week, a cord-blood match from a public bank was found, and on Dec. 3, 2002, Anthony was admitted to Schneider Children’s Hospital in Long Island, N.Y. He endured eight days of chemotherapy to bring his blood-cell counts to zero in preparation for the cord-blood transplant.

The procedure took place nine days later, and Anthony was hospitalized for two months. Though there were some rocky moments during his hospital stay, including a respiratory infection, the transplant showed signs of being successful in just eight days. Because of the disease, Anthony is blind, but he is alive and healthy, and on Jan. 31, 2003, his blood counts were at an ideal level for him to come home.

Since Anthony’s cord-blood cells can’t be used, we donated them to Paul J. Orchard, M.D., who does research on osteopetrosis at the University of Minnesota. We hope his research will benefit babies who suffer from the disorder.

We are so thankful to the family that donated the cord blood that Anthony received. We hope to meet them one day and let them know how grateful we truly are.

Tracey Dones[right arrow]29, NEW YORK

Tracey’s tips for dealing with a medical crisis.

1[right arrow]Ask for support from family and friends. Their love and attention can help you deal with the stress.

2[right arrow]Educate yourself about the illness by doing research and consulting with your doctor or the medical staff.

3[right arrow]Research private and public banks to find out if storing or donating cord brood is right for your family.

The Internet is a good resource.

COPYRIGHT 2003 Weider Publications

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group