Girl, 5, Happily Donates Stem Cells to Save Twin’s Life
Brotherly and sisterly love. It’s a wonderful thing to behold, especially in young children – and it even has the power to save your life.
Bradley and his sister Charlotte – or Charlie, as she likes to be known – are five-year-old twins from Elgin, Illinois in the US. The siblings have just started Kindergarten and getting on with their lives in that way that five-year-olds do.
You might never have guessed that just a matter of months earlier, the whole family’s lives got turned upside down…
In November last year, Bradley was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called acute myeloid leukaemia. There are only about 2,600 reported cases of this type of cancer in the UK each year, and it’s typically found in adults over the age of 60.
The aggressive disease occurs when stem cells in the bone marrow produce too many immature white blood cells, which don’t have the infection-fighting properties of healthy white blood cells. And because so many of these cells are being produced, the number of red blood cells and platelets in the blood can decrease – these carry oxygen in the blood and help clot the blood, respectively.
Bradley also had high-risk factors to his leukaemia and the best options for him were a bone marrow transplant accompanied with chemotherapy.
For the transplant to take place, the twin’s parents, Brian and Jennifer, had to see if they could find a match for Bradley. In these cases, the parents and siblings of the ill person are usually tested first, as these are the most likely people one would find a match.
According to Beatrice Abetti, Information Resource Center Director at the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, siblings are the best change for a match for a stem cell transplant. And luckily for Bradley, he just so happens to have a twin sister – though they are fraternal twins, which means they aren’t identical.
The transplant would involve extracting stem cells from the healthy child’s hipbone or bloodstream and infusing them into the ill child to restore marrow function.
Charlie was tested and it turned out that she was a perfect match as a donor for her brother. In January, her parents decided to ask her if she wanted to help her big brother (older by a minute) get better.
The twins’ mum, Jennifer, explained that they wanted Charlie to feel as though she was a part of the decision-making process. “We explained that Bradley’s blood was sick and hers was healthy,” she said, “and she said, ‘Let’s do this!’.”
Only being five, Charlie didn’t really understand the whole medical process of what was going to happen, but she wanted to help her brother in any way she could.
A month after that life-changing discussion, the twins were taken to Chicago’s Ann & Robert H Lurie Children’s Hospital for their surgery.
Despite the process being known to cause soreness or discomfort for a couple of days afterwards, Charlie amazed her parents by how little she cried and not complaining at all about the pain.
“She had a huge bandage on her back and she didn’t want to take it off,” said dad Brian, proudly. “It was a sort of badge of honour to show she helped Bradley.”
Dr Jennifer Schneiderman, the twins’ transplant coordinator, described how both twins were doing well after the operation. She added that everyone hopes the more time that passes after the transplant, the better the chances of the cancer not returning and Bradley making a full recovery.
Now, just a few months later, Bradley is in remission, though he will need to be evaluated every two weeks for a while to see how he is doing. As we said earlier, the twins are starting Kindergarten, and their parents thought now was a good time to share their story.
Brian described what his eldest daughter had done for the family was “nothing short of amazing”. He said that parents want to be heroes to their children, but in their family, the children have become the heroes.
“This whole ordeal has brought the two of them even closer,” he added. “We really hope, as parents, they learn from this: to always be selfless, to always help somebody out, to always give.”
“This shows how valuable love and life is, and I hope they never take it for granted.”
Image Source: BradleyStrong Facebook