Sofia’s Story: Cord Blood Rescue from Drowning
The story of 13-year-old Sofia from the Khmelnytskyi Oblast province of Ukraine is rightfully considered a miracle. In 2009, little Sofia had not yet turned 3 years old. Her parents Aleksandr and Nadezhda were enjoying life with their daughter and were waiting for the birth of another baby.
Everything turned around on one tragic day in February – Sofia fell through the ice and was not breathing for more than half an hour. And then – hospital, ventilator, and coma. When it rains, it pours – in addition to the lack of consciousness, the girl also had convulsions that could not be treated. “It was a vicious circle: The child is in a coma. 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…” her mother recalls with horror.
Sofia’s doctor Vladimir Bochek, a neuropathologist at the Central District Hospital of Polonne, explained: “Child’s condition was assessed as critical. Diagnosis – hypoxic-ischemic CNS injury, decerebrate rigidity. What this means is that the child is recumbent, continuous convulsions, increased muscle tone in arms and legs, we were feeding her through the tube.”
Sofia spent three months in the intensive care unit with no improvement. At the same time, Sofia’s mother was expecting a second daughter. “My father suggested preserving cord blood during labor to use it later for treatment”, the mother of the girl recalls. The family reached out to HEMAFUND, the most modern cord blood bank in Ukraine.
As soon as the cord blood collection container was ordered, Sofia’s mother went into preterm labor. Fortunately, the container 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” the girl’s mother recalls.
The family cord blood bank HEMAFUND comments: “As we can see in our bank during recent years, not only the number of parents who preserve cord blood has increased, but also the number of withdrawals of deposits for the purpose of treating cerebral palsy, autism etc. Such cases show how important the decision to preserve cord blood and umbilical cord is. This decision can be made only once in life – when the baby is born.”
The container holding the cord blood from little Maria, Sofia’s younger sister, was taken to HEMAFUND’s biotechnological complex by a courier. There in the laboratory, stem cells from the blood were isolated, a number of quality tests were carried out, and after that the stem cells were preserved in cryo-storage.
For a long time now, cord blood stem cells have been used to treat blood and immune system diseases. It is over 30 years since the first cord blood transplant in 1988. Since 2005, cord blood has been studied in clinical trials as a potential cure for neurological disorders. The blood and tissue of the afterbirth are often disposed of immediately after the baby is born. However, parents can choose to save the umbilical cord blood in a family bank and in the future use it to treat the child or next of kin.
“There were certainly doubts, as we didn’t understand if the sister’s cord blood would be compatible to treat Sofia. How and where this treatment is carried out. There were more questions than answers”, says Nadezhda, Sofia’s mother. And again luck – Maria’s cord blood turned out to be compatible with Sofia’s.
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. They decided to try an infusion of the cord blood stem cells. The parents took Sofia to one of the clinics in Ukraine. There the logistics service of the family cord blood bank Hemafund delivered the cord blood unit to the clinic, and Sofia received healing cells transfused intravenously.
“After the first transfusion of cord blood, everything gradually began to change for the better”, Dr. Vladimir Bochek recalls. “Neurological deficits and convulsions have disappeared, which is rare for patients with such a diagnosis.” Moreover, 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.”
Today, it is ten years later and Sofia is in grade 8 at school. Sofia received two infusions of her sister’s cord blood stem cells, separated by a one year interval, and underwent intensive rehabilitation. Starting as an absolutely paralyzed child, Sofia has turned into a happy girl after a few years of therapy. She 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,” the mother jokes.
“Today, our Sofia is an ordinary child. The only thing that reminds us of the tragedy is speech difficulties,” the mother adds.