In this article first published by the Parent’s Guide to Cord Blood Foundation as Henrique was Saved by his Own Cord Blood, Henrique’s parents explain how their son’s life was saved thanks to their decision to store his cord blood at birth.
This photo of Henrique was taken by the river, in Lisbon, Portugal, a few days after he was discharged from the hospital. Henrique is in remission from severe aplastic anaemia following a stem cell transplant with his own umbilical cord blood. It was the first time that autologous cord blood was used to treat aplastic anaemia in Portugal.
Henrique’s mother says, “Fourteen years ago, when I was pregnant with Guilherme, a family member told us about stem cell cryopreservation and Crioestaminal. People were starting to talk about this option in Portugal, but we found the idea interesting mainly because science is evolving so quickly and we didn’t know what the future held. It was a different health insurance.”
“When Henrique was born 9 years later, we decided to save the cells again, not only for the sake of equality between our children, but also because we continue to believe that the future of some areas of medicine can pass through stem cells.
Both pregnancies proceeded normally and without any problems, and both boys were born and raised healthy, so nothing made us predict Henrique’s disease.”
What is aplastic anaemia?
Aplastic anaemia is a rare and serious disease that occurs when the patient’s bone marrow fails to produce enough blood cells, causing anaemia, bleeding, and infections. Most of the time, the cause is unknown. It is suspected that aplastic anaemia can be triggered when the body over-reacts to an infection and develops an auto-immune attack on the bone marrow. There are only 2-7 cases of aplastic anaemia per million people in a year. When aplastic anaemia does develop, the only way to stop it is to reset the immune system with a stem cell transplant.
How was Henrique treated?
Henrique is a typical toddler who likes dinosaurs, building games, and superheroes. He also likes to watch TV, especially Paw Patrol. Last winter, when Henrique became very sick with aplastic anaemia, he was first hospitalized at Dona Estefânia Pediatric Hospital in Lisbon. In preparation for his transplant, Henrique was transferred to the Lisbon Instituto Português de Oncologia (IPO), where he underwent chemotherapy. Henrique’s cord blood was the 10th sample released by Crioestaminal for the treatment of a Portuguese child. Crioestaminal is the most experienced Portuguese laboratory in the release of cord blood samples for the treatment of various diseases.
The transplant took place at IPO on 5 April 2019, and afterwards, Henrique’s white blood cell count and other haematological parameters began to recover rapidly. Henrique was discharged from the hospital within a month after the transplant, but he is still followed closely by his medical teams at IPO and the pediatric hospital.
How is Henrique now?
The doctors are very pleased with Henrique’s clinical evolution and consider the outcome of his transplant gratifying. The second photo taken in summer 2019 shows Henrique, age 4, with his 13-year-old brother Guilherme. Henrique often wears a mask in public places to protect him from germs while his immune system is rebuilding. Henrique’s mother says, “Luckily we made a good choice in cryopreserving stem cells.”
For unbiased advice and information on cord blood banking, visit Parent’s Guide to Cord Blood Foundation at https://parentsguidecordblood.org/en/news/henrique-was-saved-his-own-cord-blood