Everything seemed fine at first to new parents Brenda and Ben Munz. Their newborn son Brodie brought so much joy to the couple’s home in Perth, Australia.
Crawling at nine months, Brodie was meeting all his milestones and was on par with his peers. But something seemed off.
“When Ben and I watched him shuffle across the floor on his tummy, I noticed Brodie was using the right side of his body, but not his left,” Brenda explains. “His strength didn’t seem equal.”
Something’s not right, but what?
Raising their concerns during routine checkups, Brenda was advised not to worry because Brodie was still moving his left side. “He’s just taking his time,” Brenda remembers being told by her pediatrician.
“Brodie could stand, but he could only take a few steps if he was holding onto furniture. He was always stumbling on his left side,” Brenda continues. “Even when using a stroller to walk, his left leg wouldn’t bend.”
A devastating diagnosis
Referred to a neurologist at 18 months, Brodie was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, the result of suffering a perinatal stroke in the womb. Brenda and Ben were devastated.
Cerebral palsy (CP) is the leading cause of physical disability in children and affects an estimated three out of every 1,000 children worldwide.1 The condition has no known cure – but clinical trials indicate that stem cells from umbilical cords show promise for treating CP.2
Over the next few months, Brodie began physical, occupational, and speech therapy with limited success. “It’s a very long process and we’re still working hard,” said Brenda.
Morning sickness leads to opportunity
Shortly after Brodie turned two, the Munzes were surprised to learn that Brenda was pregnant with their second child.
While waiting to see an urgent care center doctor for her severe morning sickness, Brenda happened to pick up a pamphlet promoting an upcoming clinical trial being led by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and funded by CBR’s Australian counterpart, Cell Care AUS, and the Cerebral Palsy Alliance.
The pamphlet was seeking participants for a sibling newborn stem cell cerebral palsy trial in which the stem cells from a child’s umbilical cord would be collected and used to treat a brother or sister with cerebral palsy.
Having a donor sibling who was a genetic match to the patient was essential for participation in the trial. Some clinical trials using newborn stem cells require a full or partial genetic match between the donor and patient. Full siblings have a 75% chance of being at least a partial match.
“I’m pretty sure I burst into tears,” Brenda recalls. “I just couldn’t believe that this amazing opportunity was right in front of our face.”
Baby Zoey to the rescue
Working with CBR’s Australian sister company, Cell Care AUS, the Munzes arranged for Brenda’s delivery team to collect the umbilical cord blood stem cells from her newborn baby – a beautiful baby girl named Zoey.
Two weeks later they got good news: Zoey was a match for Brodie and they were admitted to the clinical trial, getting the eleventh of twelve openings. “It was great… the best feeling I could ever feel,” Brenda reflects.
Not long after that the newborn stem cells collected from Zoey’s umbilical cord were given to Brodie by simple transfusion.
“I thought it would be a lot more complicated, but it was just a simple IV infusion, as if you need to get fluids when you are dehydrated,” Brenda says. “It only took a half-hour. Then it was a matter of wait and see”
Even though newborn stem cells are being used in clinical trials, it is not yet standard practice. That’s why when a child like Brodie receives a transfusion it’s hard to predict any potential improvements he’ll show and how quickly.
What a difference two weeks makes
The Munzes didn’t have to wait long. “Two weeks after Brodie’s infusion, Ben and I were watching him play with his toys when we realized he was picking them up using both his hands!”
“We called the clinical trial team in Melbourne and asked them, ‘Brodie’s using his left hand. Is this what we’re supposed to be seeing?” They said they’d seen a few other participants show very similar improvements within the same timeframe as well.”
A new chapter begins
Over the next year and a half Brodie continued to make great progress. His cognitive functions, including fine motor skills and speech, have all improved. Brodie’s learned how to support himself when he walks and can now manage everyday things like going to the bathroom and feeding himself.
With the help of ongoing therapy, Brodie has become an independent little boy who is ready to take on the world, beginning with school.
“I can confidently say when he starts school at four and a half Brodie will do everything on his own,” Brenda reflects. “I feel blessed to know that my boy will pretty much be on par with his peers. That’s a big achievement there, a big milestone.”
Brodie’s amazing story
Today, Brenda Munz is a strong advocate for newborn stem cell preservation and is eager to share her story with other pregnant moms. “The science is amazing,” she concludes. “We were just so blessed to be out there at the right time. I want other families to have this incredible experience.”
The story told here is a real family’s story; however, CBR cannot guarantee that every family would experience the same or similar results.
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.
1. Amanat, M., Majmaa, A., Zarrabi, M. et al. Clinical and imaging outcomes after intrathecal injection of umbilical cord tissue mesenchymal stem cells in cerebral palsy: a randomized double-blind sham-controlled clinical trial. Stem Cell Res Ther 12, 439 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13287-021-02513-4. 2. Sun J.M., Kurtzberg J. (2017) Cord Blood Therapies for Genetic and Acquired Brain Injuries. In: Horwitz M., Chao N. (eds) Cord Blood Transplantations. Advances and Controversies in Hematopoietic Transplantation and Cell Therapy. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-53628-6_13
*Referral program applies only to existing CBR clients (“Referring Clients”) referring new clients to CBR (“Referred Clients”). Referring clients must accept terms of promotion and join CBR before receiving client referral rewards. Referred Client must enroll using referral link provided by Referring Client or mention Referring Client when enrolling over the phone. Discount may not be combined with other offers. Gift card promotion valid until June 30, 2022. Full terms and conditions can be found here.