From transfusion-dependent to anemia-free

Carol Low describes her pregnancy with Dillon as “normal in every way.” Her checkups went as planned, she hit all her milestones, and doctors gave her no indication of any abnormalities with her unborn son. 

But the moment Dillon was born, Carol and Alex Low knew that something was wrong when the doctors rushed him to the NICU (newborn intensive care unit). 

After discovering that his hemoglobin was at thirty percent of normal levels, doctors quickly gave Dillon a blood transfusion. They decided to keep him in the NICU and start testing for a potential diagnosis. 

A Diagnosis Confirmed 

It would take doctors several months to diagnose Dillon with Diamond-Blackfan Anemia, a blood disorder in which the patient’s bone marrow fails to produce red blood cells.1 

Similar to conditions like sickle cell anemia, the only cure for Diamond-Blackfan Anemia requires chemotherapy to ablate the dysfunctional cells followed by a stem cell transplant to help rebuild the patient’s immune system. 

While his doctors considered a more immediate treatment plan, Dillon was going to the hospital for blood transfusions every three weeks. 

“We were seeing changes in Dillon at that time,” Carol says. “Every week his hemoglobin would drop, so he’d become more pale, lethargic, irritable —just really weak. He would have these highs and lows.” 

Plus, the transfusions were producing another side effect: iron build-up in his body. Doctors were growing concerned, since this could eventually cause Dillon cardiac problems, even heart failure. 

The clock was ticking on a transplant. But doctors were missing one thing: a stem cell donor. 

Little Brother to the Rescue 

When Carol and Alex became pregnant again, their doctor suggested a technique called “preimplantation genetic diagnosis,” to help them see if their unborn child’s stem cells would be a match for Dillon. 

“The process is one step further than IVF,” Carol explains. “Not only do the doctors stimulate the eggs, but they also extract and test them after fertilization. Then they see if there’s a stem cell match.” 

After a lengthy process, they found an embryo that was a perfect immune-match to Dillon and started the implantation, with the decision to preserve the baby’s cord blood with CBR so Dillon could have a stem cell transplant. 

Dillon’s brother Brody was on his way! 

A Long Road to Recovery 

In May 2012, three years after Brody was born, Dillon received his stem cell transplant. 

Because Dillon was immunocompromised post-treatment, he needed to stay inside for almost six months. He also required many hospital visits to remove the iron that had built up in his body. 

All in all, it took two years to bring Dillon’s hemoglobin levels back into a normal range. 

Since then? Not only has Dillon been free of Diamond-Blackfan Anemia, he’s completely recovered from the transplant.  

Says Carol about the experience: “I tell people that without the cord blood and without CBR, Dillon wouldn’t have had such a successful outcome.” 

Today, Dillon is fifteen years old and a freshman in high school. He loves to play basketball and Fortnite, and argue with his brother!  

We’re proud to have been able to preserve newborn stem cells for the Low family, and we’re overjoyed to see Dillon doing so well after all these years after such an unpredictable diagnosis. 

Expecting a child? Have friends or family who are expecting a child or grandchild? Join CBR today or log into your account for your unique referral code. When someone you refer preserves with CBR, you’ll get one year of free cord blood storage —and they’ll receive special pricing on our newborn stem cell bundle!

References: 1. Diamond Blackfan Anemia. Accessed July 15, 2021. 

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