My brother saved my life with his cord blood stem cells.
In November 2006, my partner Pete and I possibly made the smartest decision of our lives! It was when we decided to store the cord blood of our children with Cryosite, a private cord blood bank we discovered at a parenting and baby expo. We were expecting our first child, Jasper at the time.
Collecting and storing the cord blood from the placenta at birth meant that our babies could benefit from stem cell advancements in the future. Stem cells are cells in the blood or bone marrow that are capable of producing all mature blood cells including both red and white blood cells and platelets. There are current studies showing the potential for stem cells from cord blood to repair damaged spinal cords, or to help stroke or liver failure patients. Cord blood is also widely used to treat leukaemia and several other types of cancer. Pete and I felt that storing the cord blood was an insurance policy for our children’s future health.
We have two beautiful little boys, Jasper 10 and Miles 8. On Monday morning, 17th August 2009, I received news that no parent ever wants to hear. Miles, then 10 months old, was suspected of having a rare form of leukaemia known as JMML (Juvenile Myelomonocytic Leukaemia). JMML is a cancer of the blood and is found in infancy or early childhood. It is fatal if left untreated and the only treatment is a stem cell or bone marrow transplant.
Miles’ only chance of survival was a bone marrow transplant. Pete, Jasper and I were all tested to see if we could donate our bone marrow. At this stage we told the doctors that we had stored both Jasper and Miles’ cord blood. Would this help? The doctor was pleasantly surprised and confirmed it was great news! I remember feeling like we had won the lotto. Since the nightmare began, we had felt totally helpless, now maybe we had done one thing right that could potentially give Miles a better chance of survival!
Early October, it was confirmed Jasper was a match for Miles. What a magic moment!!! This meant we would be able to use Jasper’s stored cord blood to treat Miles. Having the cord blood meant Miles would have a pure source to go to transplant – reducing the likelihood of infection post transplant. We had the ‘golden ticket’ to give Miles the best possible chance of survival!
Once the transplant was complete there was a long, 120-day rejection countdown. Miles had his up and down days, but overall with the cord blood and our quarantine boot camp, we were extremely lucky to avoid any major infections through the transplant period. It was fantastic. Miles was recovering extremely well and left the hospital after just 8 weeks, not the usual 6 months. We had broken hospital records!
Miles is now completely drug free, which is hard to believe as he was on 45+ medications at one point. Now his overall health, weight and growth are all going along spot on. He is the most social little boy who sings everywhere he goes and has the most amazing outlook on life. He is very aware of what happened to him, and understands that tests must still be done from time to time.
In fact, it really is quite magical to hear the two brothers talking about the transplant. Miles often asks Jasper to remind him about what happened because he was only very young and doesn’t remember all the details. The two of them often stun adults with the story of their ‘superhero blood’ that came together and now they can fix everything!
We have learnt from this experience to take life one day at a time, that there is nothing more important than family and no one really knows what is around the corner. Appreciate every second!
I would like to appeal to everyone to become bone marrow donors and for new mums, please make the effort to store your cord blood as an insurance policy for your child’s future health.