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First NZ Child Treated With Her Own Cord Blood

2 December 2008


First NZ Child With Brain Injury Successfully Treated With Her Own Cord Blood

A young Auckland girl has become the first New Zealander to undergo a ground-breaking umbilical cord blood treatment for a birth-related brain injury.

Four-year-old Maia Friedlander was treated with her own cord blood at Duke University, North Carolina, USA in August 2008 and her parents say the results over the past 12 weeks have been extraordinary.

Maia’s father, Daniel Friedlander said that before the treatment Maia had difficulty running, chewing and communicating – despite having up to 6 hours of therapy a day for the past three years.

“The oxygen deprivation left her developmentally delayed which meant her progress was inconsistent and slow and Maia was as frustrated as we were. We were facing a lifetime of therapy with no prospect of improvement.”

“Because we had banked her cord blood at birth with CordBank, we were eligible for the reinfusion programme at Duke – which is headed by Dr Joanne Kurtzberg, a leading paediatric oncologist. Only children who have their own cord blood stored are able to receive this treatment,” said Daniel.

Since 2003, Dr Kurtzberg has reinfused 50 children with their own cord blood for cerebral palsy and brain injury. The first child to receive the treatment three years ago, American child Ryan Schneider, is now clear of all issues and is completely well. All of the other children who have received reinfusions for brain injury are reported to have shown improvement.

Umbilical cord blood contains special stem cells which can only be collected at birth. Because they are an exact match to the person they are collected from, they have been used to successfully “reboot” immune systems after cancer treatment and are now being used to repair brain injury and Type 1 diabetes.

Daniel says the reinfusion, which took 2 hours, completely unlocked the door on Maia’s personality and her physical development.

“Just a few days later after the procedure her eyes started to look more alert, and she lost the unfocused, dreamy kind of look she had always had. Her arms and legs began to straighten out, and her physical co-ordination improved.” ...2/

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Since Maia’s return home she’s continued to make progress and is now attending pre-school 5 days a week.

“We just can’t believe the change in her. Maia is now talking, hugging us, playing and getting up to mischief with her sister – and we couldn’t be more thrilled.”

She’s had a second chance at life and we can now have the family life we’d always dreamed of.”

“While science can’t tell us exactly how it works – some think that the stem cells in cord blood have a road map to damaged tissue and when they get there they rebuild it. All we know is that it worked for Maia.”

“We couldn’t be more grateful for the dramatic change it has made to our lives and want to make sure other families are aware that they can save their baby’s cord blood at birth.”

“You never know what can happen at your child’s birth but when you have their cord blood stored you have options – like the option we had for Maia. We would also like to see the reinfusion procedure available to families in NZ,” he said.

Jillian and Daniel Friedlander have made a video about Maia’s journey to raise awareness further. Their story – ‘Maia’s Cord Blood Miracle’ can be viewed on YouTube or at www.cordbank.co.nz

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