Dominika

A story of 12-year-old Dominika cured thanks to her brother’s umbilical cord blood.

From the day of her birth Dominika had problems with her health. The day after she was born she had the first operation connected with the incorrect structure of her alimentary tract. Then a cardiac effect was diagnosed. When she was three she suffered from continuous vomiting and diarrhoea. After some tests, the doctors diagnosed her with thrombocytopenia – a disease which causes a lack of blood platelets. For a few years she had to have transfusions, to begin with, just once a month, then later once every two weeks. In the summer her condition usually got worse, her organ resistance decreased and the number of blood platelets reduced. Then doctors made punctures, which luckily did not show any abnormality that would be a sign of a tumour.

Dominika

Dominika developed normally, she could play with other children, go to school and devote time to her hobbies, such as horse riding. Nevertheless, the older she got, the longer her absences at school were. Doctors were afraid that she might get seriously ill. The danger increased when Dominika’s medical test results got worse. Mrs Dorota, the girl’s mother, decided to look for help with  other specialists. The analysis of medical tests in Warsaw showed that Dominika was suffering from Franconi anaemia. If she were to be diagnosed with this disease, it would mean that she would be at high risk of tumour development.

The diagnosis was confirmed by more tests and soon a search for a bone marrow donor began. Over the course of a year and a half a few potential donors were found, but each time a tissue compatibility test was done, it turned out that the donors were not suitable. During that time, Dominika’s parents decided to have another child. One day, as a heavily pregnant Mrs Dorota was visiting her sick child in hospital, she came across a leaflet from the Polish Stem Cell Bank (PBKM) which collects and stores umbilical cord blood. Mrs Dorota had never heard about such a possibility before. She made an appointment with the Bank’s consultant, who explained the whole process and clarified any doubts she had. After her meeting with the consultant, Mrs Dorota decided to have her child’s umbilical cord blood collected.

Although a suitable donor was found before the birth of Dominika’s sibling, the doctors decided to wait before making the decision for the transplant. They wanted to check if the umbilical cord blood collected during the birth would be compatible with Dominika’s blood. The specialists claim that a sibling’s blood is better for a transplant than a non-relative’s blood because the risk of the transplant rejection, as well as complications, is much smaller.

In January 2010 Kacper was born. Everybody was relieved when it turned out that the stem cells collected from his umbilical cord blood could be transplanted to Dominika. The doctors decided to wait one more year before transplanting her brother’s umbilical cord blood and bone marrow, as Dominika was just 11 years old at the time. With admirable patience and resistance, Dominika waited for the transplantation. Mrs Dorota recalls her daughter’s brave decision to shave her head and get rid of her precious hair. Up to then, Dominika only allowed a few centimetres of her hair to be cut but just before the transplant she did not protest at all. She knew it was necessary and she accepted shaving her head with dignity.

In accordance with the procedures connected with the transplant, Dominika was treated with intensive chemotherapy. The aim of this was to destroy diseased bone marrow cells and consequently, destroy her immune system. She had to stay in a sterile isolation ward, where only doctors and her closest family members could enter, having maintained the highest safety standards. They had to wear special masks, aprons and protectors as any kind of infection could put her life in danger.

One year after Kacper was born, the transplant was performed in the Clinic of Paediatric Bone Marrow Transplantation, Oncology and Haematology at Wrocław Medical University. It was a big event for the hospital staff. A lot of employees were interested in Dominika’s case because transplants of umbilical cord blood stem cells are not a method of treatment often used in Poland, although in other Western countries it is a routine medical procedure. The reason for this is due to the small number of stored umbilical cord blood units in Poland.

One and a half months after the transplant, Dominika’s medical test results were so good that she could leave hospital. Doctors often affirm that going back home is a factor that often increases the motivation to fight a disease and can speed up the recovery process. This was exactly what happened in Dominika’s case. Day after day, the effects of the treatment were more and more satisfactory and she could get back to her normal life, she could visit a friend or go out. At the moment Dominika feels excellent and she can enjoy activities like riding a bike, roller-skating and going to the swimming pool. Her time of illness has come to an end and the time of making her wishes come true has begun.