Umbilical cord blood saved a boy's life
Published Monday, September 14, 2015 11:23AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, September 14, 2015 7:17PM EDT
Four years ago, when he was just a baby, Nolan Laberge's parents brought him to the Montreal Children's Hospital to be treated for a stuffy nose and a rash, but it turned out he had a much more serious condition.
Nolan had acute myeloid leukemia, an aggressive type of blood cancer.
"He had little purple nodules all over his body, and we later found out those were all tumour cells," said his mother, Stephanie Comeau.
At just nine months of age, Nolan began the first of four rounds of chemotherapy.
"There was no warning, there was nothing. You go in with a rash and you don't leave for five months," said Comeau.
"They kept us there overnight, so that was Thanksgiving weekend and we did not leave until four-five months later.
Leukemia is often treated with chemotherapy but it was not effective in Nolan's case.
Radiation therapy also failed to work, leaving Nolan and his family with only one option: a stem cell transplant.
Years earlier, his parents had donated the umbilical cord blood from Nolan's older brother Nathis, and they were being stored in Hema Quebec's public cord blood bank.
The first such bank in Canada, it holds about 10,000 donations, but finding a match is not easily.
The Laberge family was lucky: Nathis' cells were still in the bank, and they were a perfect match.
"For sure it is a rare thing that cord blood that was donated for a public bank is then used for the family," said Susie Joron of Hema Quebec.
"It is quite rare and so we're pretty happy and fortunate enough that the unit was still available."
In May 2012 Nolan became the first sibling stem cell transplant recipient from a public cord blood bank in Canada.
Comeau said he was considered cured almost immediately.
"They considered him in remission as of the day of his transplant," she said.
Cristina Cinquanta, of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada, agreed.
"The blood cord donation is what saved Nolan's life," said Cinquanta.
Years later Nolan is small for his age, and the radiation therapy damaged his thyroid, eyes and skin.
"However he's running around, he's a beautiful boy. We play soccer. He's great!" said Comeau.
Cinquanta said Nolan is a role model for other patients, and an inspiration for other families.
"He's what we do every year. We want more cases like him," said Cinquanta.
Next month, on October 17, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada holds its largest fundraiser of the year with the Light the Night Walk at Jean Drapeau Park.
Nolan and his family will be taking part, showing how even the toughest challenges can be overcome with the right cords and a little luck.