The best gift a baby could give a sibling
My husband, Ben, and I were over the moon with the birth of our first child, a beautiful baby boy we named Brodie.
We enjoyed watching our baby boy grow and develop following his birth, and it wasn’t long, a mere 9 months, until Brodie was on the move. He started commando crawling – however we noticed that Brodie was favouring his right side.
At our next routine check-up the nurse showed no sign of concern when we mentioned Brodie’s lack of movement on his left side, as after all he was still able to move himself around!
Over the next few months Brodie became more mobile and by the time he reached 15 months, he could stand, but wasn’t taking any independent steps, always holding on to a table or chair. When he would walk with his toy stroller it was clear that there was an imbalance in strength and coordination between his left and right side.
Our concerns continued to grow so we contacted the doctor who again expressed little concern and told us to get in touch in 6 months if things still hadn’t changed. But, my gut instinct was too strong to simply ignore.
Ben and I decided to take Brodie to a physiotherapist for an assessment. Perhaps they would give us some exercises to help strengthen his left side and improve his balance and coordination. But, the feedback was not what we expected. He told us Brodie’s movements resembled those of someone following a stroke.
We immediately took Brodie for further testing and to our amazement an MRI confirmed that Brodie had in fact had a stroke whilst in utero. As a result, he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. We were relieved to finally have a diagnosis, but utterly devastated for our son.
Over the next few months we worked hard on Brodie’s rehabilitation, but he was still showing very little progression in the movement of his left side. He was in pain, he couldn’t dress or feed himself, nor could he hold things in his left hand. But, we persevered.
Brodie was two when I found out I was pregnant again. I was incredibly sick this time around, to the point of needing to be hospitalised. It was in the waiting room at the after-hours GP that I noticed a pamphlet about cord blood and tissue banking, and a stem cell clinical trial. The pamphlet detailed a regenerative therapy that had the potential to encourage brain repair for cerebral palsy patients. Although stem cell therapy has been proven to successfully treat over 80 diseases, it is still heavily restricted. A private clinic was performing the trial under tight regulations for a small sample of just 12 children. The trial would see blood taken from a sibling’s umbilical cord and perform an infusion in the child with cerebral palsy. I took this as a sign. Our second baby was here to help our son.
Once a baby is born and the cord is clamped, blood is removed from the cord, stored in a sterile collection bag and sent away. Following the safe arrival of our daughter, a sample of her blood was collected from both her cord and placenta and sent away. The procedure was quick and painless, performed by a trained midwife or obstetrician.
Four months later we received the exciting news we were waiting for – Zoey’s cells were a match for her brother therefore making Brodie the 11th child to participate in the cord blood trail. The procedure took a few hours with Zoey’s stem cells being transferred to Brodie through a drip in his arm. Just two weeks later, we noticed the first change.
While Brodie was playing, Ben and I realised he was picking things up with both hands. As his strength grew, he was able to support himself when walking, feed himself and he could even take himself to the bathroom.
Today, Brodie is at school with his physical abilities matching that of any of the children.
I have no doubt that Zoey was our gift to help her brother. Brodie treasures his little sister, telling people ‘Zoey made me strong.’
Umbilical cord blood and tissue has proved effective in the treatment of more than 80 diseases and conditions. Cord blood and cord tissue are rich in powerful stem cells and can only be collected at birth for potential future use. A baby's stem cells are a perfect match for the child and are likely to be a match for siblings and family members. Siblings have a greater probability of a match than an unrelated donor and the medical outcomes are more promising when related cord blood is used in transplants.
Stem cell therapy is a proven treatment for a wide range of diseases and conditions including some cancers, blood, immune and metabolic disorders. The number of conditions treatable with cord blood is expanding daily as scientists learn more about its potential.
Cell Care is the world’s largest and most experienced cord blood and tissue bank and is the leader in research, education, customer service and innovation. The service is now available in New Zealand providing parents with the opportunity to store their child’s stem cells to safeguard the future health of their family.
For more information visit cellcare.co.nz or call 0800 088 235