In 2009 Aleksandr and Nadezhda were enjoying life with their 2-year-old daughter Sofia and anticipating the birth of their second baby. Then everything changed. On one tragic day in February Sofia fell through ice, drowning in the freezing cold water and unable to breathe for more than half an hour.
Drowning has heartbreaking consequences for the toddler
In addition to her lack of consciousness, Sofia suffered un-treatable convulsions following the drowning. “It was a vicious circle:” Sofia’s mother told the charity, Parent’s Guide to Cord Blood Foundation, “You want her out of the coma, but she was forced into a medicated coma to stop convulsions that are incompatible with life. The heart could just stop…”
Sofia’s doctor Vladimir Bochek, a neuropathologist at the Central District Hospital of Polonne, explained that Sofia’s condition was assessed as critical. Her diagnosis, hypoxic-ischemic CNS injury with decerebrate rigidity, meant Sofia’s convulsions were often continuous and that she had to be fed through a tube.
Cord blood therapy offers hope
Sofia spent three months in the intensive care unit with no improvement. At the same time, Sofia’s mother was expecting her second daughter. “My father suggested preserving cord blood during labour to use it later for treatment”, Nadezhda told the Parent’s Guide to Cord Blood.
Cord blood collection takes place after a baby is born and is compatible with delayed cord clamping. The stem cells in a child’s cord blood have been used as a therapy to treat blood and conditions for over 30 years. Today, more than 80 conditions can be treated, including solid tumours such as neuroblastoma, blood cancers such as leukaemia and lymphoma and blood abnormalities such as sickle cell disease. Clinical trials are also underway in conditions such as diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and severe autism.
As soon as the cord blood collection kit was ordered, Sofia’s mother went into preterm labour. Fortunately, the kit was delivered just an hour before Maria, Sofia’s sister, was born, and the obstetrician was able to collect the cord blood. “It was as if everything was pushing us to use cord blood” Nadezhda recalled.
After the first transfusion of cord blood, everything gradually began to change for the better. Neurological deficits and convulsions have disappeared, which is rare for patients with such a diagnosis.Dr. Vladimir Bochek
Maria’s cord blood was compatible with Sofia’s – many parents store cord blood as a family protection because of the likelihood of compatibility between siblings and because cord blood stem cells are more easily matched than older stem cells from bone marrow and peripheral blood. The family had spent months searching for any kind of medicine that could alleviate Sofia’s condition, but nothing worked and there was little improvement.
Find out how cord blood stem cells can help your family with conditions from cancer to cerebral palsy
Cord blood stem cells – the cleverest of doctors!
They decided to try an infusion of the cord blood stem cells. Sofia received healing cells transfused intravenously and two months later, Sofia swallowed by herself for the first time since the accident! In addition to the cord blood treatment, Sofia was constantly undergoing various rehabilitation programs. However, according to Sofia’s mother Nadezhda, it was the cord blood that turned out to be the elixir of life that pushed the body to recover:
Cord blood stem cells are like smart doctor – when they get into the body, they stream to where they are needed and begin to treat.Sofia’s mother
Today, Sofia’s drowning is just a bad memory
Ten years later and Sofia is in grade 8 at school. Starting as a paralyzed child, Sofia still has speech problems, but she goes to school and communicates with other kids. “There are still problems with math, but it is not a fact that she wouldn’t have them even if everything was okay”, her mother jokes. “Today, our Sofia is an ordinary child. The only thing that reminds us of the tragedy is speech difficulties.”
Sofia also now has four younger siblings, two brothers and two sisters. Her parents have preserved cord blood and umbilical cord stem cells for each child at, Hemafund, their local family cord blood bank.
BSc (Hons) Microbiology
Biovault Family CEO, Kate Sneddon, joined Biovault in July 2009 and became Chief Executive Officer in 2016. As health industry professional her experience includes working as a microbiologist and leader at GSK for over 10 years. Her expertise in cord blood banking has been recognised in her awards, features in Parliamentary Review and Parents Guide to Cord Blood, as well as contributions to research with UCL and others.