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Health Beat: Double umbilical cord transplant

Published On: May 27 2014 11:44:40 AM CDT
Updated On: May 27 2014 05:31:29 PM CDT

Every four minutes, one person in the United States is diagnosed with a blood cancer.

MIAMI -

From playing Uno to dancing with her sibling, you would never have guessed that just last year, 15-year-old Sabrina Couillard was fighting for her life.

"I was getting really skinny. I was getting bruises everywhere," said Couillard, who was diagnosed with leukemia.

"I just broke down [and] cried," said Sabrina's mom, Marta Gonzalez.

Her only hope for a cure was a bone marrow transplant, but doctors couldn’t find a match from a family member. That’s when her doctor, Kamar Godder, turned to an alternative stem cell source: the umbilical cord.

"We knew that when you give it to somebody who is heavier, a heavier child or adult, it will not quote unquote take," said Godder, pediatric hematologist/oncologist, Miami Children's Hospital.

Couillard’s doctor gave her a double umbilical cord transplant.

"Initially, the thought was just to give more of [the] cells," Godder explained. "Eventually only one will take over. That's the interesting thing."

Godder said earlier studies have shown that cell count is the most important factor after degree of match for successful transplant.

It worked for Couillard, who is now cancer free.

"I'm feeling good," Couillare said. "I just have to keep walking more [and] strengthening my legs."

Godder said the treatment is proving to be an effective alternative for older children with blood diseases.

There is no added risk to using two umbilical cords. The risks are much the same as you would get with the unrelated cord blood, which is the risk of rejection.

DOWNLOAD and VIEW research summary and an in-depth interview with the doctor