Doctors use umbilical cords for older children with leukemia - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

Doctors use umbilical cords for older children with leukemia

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UNDATED (WJRT) - (05/29/14) - Every four minutes, one person in the U.S. is diagnosed with a blood cancer.    

Blood stem cell transplants have become a standard way to treat children with leukemia and other blood disorders, but it's not a solution for all kids.

The treatment has been limited for only small children. Now, there is new hope for older children with leukemia. Doctors are saving them by transplanting not just one, but two umbilical cords.

From playing Uno, to dancing with her siblings, you would never have guessed that just last year, 15-year-old Sabrina Couillard was fighting for her life.     

"I was getting really skinny. I was getting bruises everywhere," she said.

She was diagnosed with leukemia.    

Her only hope for a cure was a bone marrow transplant, but doctors couldn't find a match from a family member. That's when her doctor, Kamar Godder, turned to an alternative stem cell source - the umbilical cord.  

"We knew that when you give it to somebody who is heavier, a heavier child or adult, it will not quote unquote 'take,'" Godder said.

So Sabrina's doctor gave Sabrina a double umbilical cord transplant.  

"Initially the thought was just to give more, just to give more of cells. Eventually only one will take over, that's the interesting thing," Godder said.

Dr. Godder says that earlier studies have shown that cell count is the most important factor after degree of match for successful transplant.

It worked for sabrina, who is now cancer free.

"I'm feeling good. I just have to keep walking more, strengthening my legs," she said.

"She's amazing, her character, she's strong, she is always smiling," said Sabrina's mom, Marta Gonzalez.

The treatment is proving to be an effective alternative for older children with blood diseases. There is no added risk to using two umbilical cords. 
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