‘It was a miracle’: Toddler saved by cord blood transplant in S.A. .

‘It was a miracle’: Toddler saved by cord blood transplant in S.A. .

by Wendy Rigby / KENS 5

Posted on September 12, 2011 at 11:23 AM

SAN ANTONIO — Her parents call her their “miracle child.” A South Texas baby has a second chance at life thanks to a successful cord blood transplant in San Antonio.

At 10 months old, Valentina DeLeon’s parents knew there was a problem. She weighed only 13 pounds. She was a sickly child with a frightening diagnosis: severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID). It’s a rare disorder made famous by the so-called “Bubble Boy” in the 1970s.

“She was super skinny,” recalled Valentina’s mother, Karina Chapa. “She was sick all the time. She was vomiting. She was throwing up all the time. She wasn’t eating.”

The child’s Rio Grande Valley doctors sent her to Methodist Children’s Hospital in San Antonio.

Dr. Ka Wah Chan ordered high-dose chemotherapy for Valentina and then a cord blood transplant.

Donated cord blood from a stranger turned out to be a match for this baby in need. The cells helped create a new, stronger, normal immune system for a girl who faced a grim diagnosis without it.

“The cord blood is thrown away anyway,” Chan explained. “Nobody saves cord blood. But it can be used. And it can particularly be used in this type of situation when you can do a transplant and save a life.”

Today, five months after transplant, Valentina weighs more than 9 kilograms. That’s 21 pounds. Her doctors are cautiously optimistic about her long-term prognosis.

Valentina’s parents are finally able to take her home to the Valley. They’re grateful to the woman who donated a by-product of birth that used to be considered medical waste.

“It’s changed her life and it was a miracle,” Chapa said. “She’s alive and she’s healthy and I’m just thankful. Very thankful.”

Until recent years, this immune disorder was almost always fatal. Valentina’s mother said every day her daughter is alive is a celebration.


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