At just three days old Carol Mulumba was diagnosed with Sickle Cell Anaemia. Sickle Cell is common in Black, Asian, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern people. Sickle cell is hereditary and causes the red blood cells to form abnormally, in a sickle or crescent shape.
Sickle Cell can cause many complications, not least Sickle Cell Crisis. Sickle Cell Crisis occurs when blood cells clog blood vessels which can result in severe pain. Other issues arising from Sickle Cell can include stroke and stunted growth. The only known cure for Sickle Cell is a stem cell transplant.
Carol’s parents originated from Uganda where children with Sickle Cell were condemned to a life with no treatment, so the diagnosis for them was particularly devastating. They were acutely aware of a time when children with sickle cell didn’t make it to adulthood. However, Carol’s parents resided in the US which opened up treatment options for their daughter.
Carol’s parents were advised that should they ever have another baby that the cord blood should be saved as is could provide a match for Carol and enable her to have a stem cell transplant. At six years old Carol’s condition had deteriorated to the point that she needed a stem cell transplant. Fortunately for Carol, her parents had been able to save the cord blood from her brother when he was born 4 years earlier and he provided her with a perfect match.
Carol had to undergo chemotherapy to be able to receive her brother’s stem cells. The chemotherapy caused Carol to lose her hair and her face to swell but the transplant was a success. Just a month after the transplant, hospital tests showed that Carol had been cured. Carol is now 10 years old and able to live a normal life, a life free of Sickle Cell. Thanks to her brother’s cord blood Carol is healthy.