Baby waits in isolation for lifesaving transplant

Family says they can't wait to thank his donor

ANN ARBOR - Amy Yahara used to think she had the sickest healthy kids around. 

Her baby son Cole, in particular, seemed to catch one illness after another.  No one knew Cole was actually suffering from something incredibly serious, an illness where even the most ordinary germs could put his life at risk.

"It just seemed like there was all the little ear infections, all the little colds, nothing too big, but it was just like one after another, after another," said Amy.

In his first year of life, Cole was sick a lot, but nothing raised any alarms.  Then at his one year check-up, Cole received the chicken pox vaccine and ended up getting the chickenpox.

"When he developed it, we really didn't think anything of it," said Cole's dad James Yahara.  "We treated it with the treatment plan like his pediatrician said."

But Cole got worse.

"The chicken pox spread to his lungs, he developed pneumonia, and we knew at that point, something was really wrong," said James.

Doctors eventually discovered Cole was suffering from a genetic disorder called severe combined immunodeficiency, better known at SCID.

"It's a condition where there is an important part of his immune system is lacking, which puts him at high risk for infectious complications," said Dr. Jim Connelly, a pediatric bone marrow transplant specialist at C.S. Mott Children's Hospital in Ann Arbor.

Without a healthy immune system, even a cold could threaten Cole's life, so he's now isolated in this hospital room at the University Of Michigan's C.S. Mott Children's Hospital.

"Right now, he's battling two infections," said Connelly.  "One is a chicken pox infection.  The other one is a microbacterial infection which people with normal immune systems would not develop."

The hospital room is now their temporary home.  Cole's dad and sister visit each day, while his mom stays by his side, doing her best to keep Cole comfortable and safe in an area about 300 square feet.

"He likes music and the trucks and books, but obviously, he'd like to get out of this room and go for walks, but we can't do that," said Amy.  "It kills me to see him like this every day, every procedure, every O.R.  What I have to look at is I'm doing this so he can live.  There's no other choice."

Cole is on 15 to 18 medications, but he needs a bone marrow transplant to survive.

"The goal of the transplant is that it will replace the part of his immune system which does not work in him," said Connelly.  "As that immune system starts to grow in his body, it will help him fight off his current infections and will eventually be there to prevent these infections from happening again."

Cole's sister Autumn wasn't a match, but a stranger in the national bone marrow registry is.  Doctors hope Cole will be strong enough to have the bone marrow transplant in the next couple of weeks.

Experts said Cole is lucky to have found a match.  Sadly, too often when doctors go to the registry, there isn't a match or if there is, that person is no longer willing to donate.  Minorities in particular often have a difficult time finding a match. 

Cole's family doesn't know anything about his donor, but they can't wait to share their thanks.

"They don't know they're saving a baby, but they're saving his entire life," said Amy.  "I thank God every day for them.  Hopefully, someday I can meet them and thank them, and they can meet Cole, and they can realize what they've done."

Cole's family is encouraging everyone to get screened as bone marrow donor, which could help countless other children like Cole.  There is a special event called "Be a Hero at the Big House" at Michigan Stadium on November 4th from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. where visitors can give blood or join the organ donor registry or the bone marrow registry.

To learn more about  "Be a Hero at the Big House," click here.


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