The National Marrow Donor Program often shares the stories of people who have survived cancer after receiving a stem cell transplant. They recently shared a short video featuring a cancer survivor named Howie. This is his story.
In 2001, Howie was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL). It was a highly unusual diagnosis because he was 27 at the time and ALL usually affects children.
ALL occurs when a bone marrow cell develops errors in its DNA, causing the creation of malformed cells. It is usually treated with chemotherapy, which destroys the mutated cells.
Howie’s leukaemia was progressing very rapidly and was non-responsive to initial treatments. The doctors gave Howie one final chemotherapy treatment and were delighted to discover that it worked. He was finally free of cancer.
After his chemotherapy treatment, Howie was informed that he would need a bone marrow transplant because of how his leukaemia had progressed.
The oncologist asked Howie if he had any siblings who might be willing to donate some bone marrow. Howie said that was possible, but he didn’t know for certain because he was adopted.
The doctors said they would use the National Marrow Donor Program in an effort to find a bone marrow match.
When Howie turned up for an oncology appointment a few weeks later, he was informed by a nurse that they had found a match. Much to Howie’s surprise, the match wasn’t for bone marrow stem cells, but for cord blood stem cells.
Cord blood stem cells are obtained from the umbilical cord blood of full-term babies. The blood is simply drained from the umbilical cord before it is discarded. It is a completely risk-free and pain-free procedure for mother and child.
Howie’s doctors decided that he would required the stem cells from two umbilical cords. This made him the state of Oklahoma’s first two-time umbilical cord blood stem cell recipient.
The cord blood stem cell transplant worked as intended and Howie is now completely cancer free. Another life saved thanks to the incredible healing power of stem cells.