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Maia’s Cord Blood Miracle

Maia hugs her father 10 weeks after her successful cord blood re-infusion

When four year old Maia Friedlander greets her dad with a hug at the end of the day it has extra special meaning for the both of them.

“Just a few weeks ago Maia wouldn’t even have noticed whether I was in the room or not,” explains Daniel “Now it’s clear she knows who I am and I couldn’t be happier.”

Maia, one of twin girls, suffered oxygen deprivation at birth which left her “disconnected” and developmentally delayed.

“We had speech therapists, physiotherapists, behavioural therapists and any other kind of therapy you can imagine working with her for up to 6 hours a day.”

Despite three years of dedicated effort – her progress was inconsistent and slow.

“We were facing a lifetime of therapy and no real promise of any improvement.”

But ten weeks ago Maia, and the Friedlander family got a second chance – thanks to a groundbreaking procedure pioneered by Dr Joanna Kurtzberg, a leading paediatric oncologist at Duke University in North Carolina, USA.

“We first heard about cord blood being used to repair brain injury when Mary Schneider, who was the first person to have the treatment for her son Ryan’s cerebral palsy, visited New Zealand in April this year.”

Three years on, Mary says Ryan is “clear of all issues, needs no more therapies, and is completely well – a typical five-year-old boy.”

Maia the night before her cord blood re-infusion

Maia the night before her cord blood re-infusion

“So Daniel and I were determined to get Maia into the Duke programme and we emailed and phoned almost daily for the next four months. We felt we had nothing to lose and owed it to Maia to see whether this could change her life too.”

Their persistence paid off.

In late August, Maia and her mum Jillian flew to Duke, to have the stem cells her parents stored with CordBank, put back into her blood stream via an intravenous drip.

“Once they’re in her system, it’s a matter of waiting for her cord blood stem cells to find their way to the damaged tissue in her brain and start rebuilding it.”

Jillian didn’t have to wait long.

Only two days after Maia’s re-infusion, her balance seemed to have improved.

“At first I thought I was imagining the changes, out of wishful thinking, but as every day brought more changes I realized I was witnessing our very own miracle.”

“Her eyes became more focused and alert, she could run with confidence and she even started talking – things she simply hadn’t done before.”

“On the plane trip home she had the concentration to colour in all by herself – for the first time ever.”

“When we got back to Auckland, only 7 days after the treatment, Daniel was stunned by the changes and said it was like I had brought home a different child.”

“It was as if the reinfusion completely “unlocked” the door on her personality and her physical development.”

The Friedlanders family doctor, Dr Marcus Stone, who has known Maia and her twin sister Arielle since they were born is amazed by Maia’s improvement.

“I was so delighted by the changes I’ve seen in Maia since her re-infusion. Her l

Maia with her sister, Arielle, and mother, Jillian

Maia with her twin sister, Arielle, and mother, Jillian

evel of awareness, the way she relates to other people and the connection she now has to what’s going on around is so much better than before she went to Duke.

Her behaviour is now much more age-appropriate and her concentration, balance and coordination are much improved. I’ve been her doctor since she was born and it is truly wonderful to see her improving to this extent.”

The Friedlander family believe that Maia was the 51st child to receive her own cord blood back for brain injury at Duke. Anecdotally all of the children concerned have seen some improvement in their condition.

“A month before Maia had her reinfusion, a little girl called Chloe Levin from Denver, Colorado went to Duke for treatment for her cerebral palsy. Her family reports a 50% improvement in her condition,” said Daniel.

“Jillian heard that demand for the procedure has grown so significantly that the next available appointment is in 2010.”

“We’re so fortunate that we had the resources and determination to get Maia into Duke when we did.”

“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. Others think that the stem cells repair blood vessels and flow damage by bringing crucial blood that in turn repairs brain tissue.”

“What we know is that they worked for Maia.”

“We’d like to see the procedure available to families in New Zealand and are hopeful that it won’t be long before that’s an option. We know that CordBank is working with the medical community to see how that might be possible.”

Meanwhile Maia is now going to pre-school with her twin sister Arielle – which would have been impossible before the treatment.

Maia's parents

Maia's parents, Jillian and Daniel

“She’s talking, playing and generally getting up to mischief with her sister – and we couldn’t be more thrilled. Maia’s had a second chance at life and we can now have the family life we’d alw

ays dreamed of.”

“It’s given Jillian and I our daughter back and, Arielle her sister back.”

“You never know what can happen at your childs’ birth or in their lives

“But when you have their cord blood stored you have options – and we have one message for the expectant parents of New Zealand.”

Bank your baby’s cord blood with CordBank.

You only get one chance and it’s a decision you’ll never regret.”

More Uses For Cord Blood

Until Mary Schneider campaigned to have her son Ryan’s cord blood used to treat his cerebral palsy in 2005, umbilical cord blood had mainly been used to rebuild childrens’ immune systems after cancer treatment. Since then it’s increasingly being used in regenerative medicine – which use the body’s own stem cells to cure failing impaired or injured tissues. In the US, expanded trials using a child’s own cord blood as treatment for cerebral palsy and traumatic brain injury, are expected to begin enrolling patients shortly. Clinical studies for infant stroke, hearing loss and spinal cord injuries are expected to launch in 2009.

Fact and Figures

  1. The reinfusion procedure at Duke took 4 hours and cost the Friedlanders $8,000 (US dollars) which is around $13,800 NZ dollars.
  2. Maia’s cord blood travelled to Duke via a special cryogenic shipper provided by CordBank and were waiting for Maia on her arrival.
  3. The largest private cord blood bank in the US has released 30 cord blood units for treatment of brain injury in the past 24 months and expects the rate of release to increase dramatically in the near future.
  4. To date, only the child’s own cord blood is being used for their regenerative procedures as sibling cord blood is not considered a close enough match.

Does Your Child Have A Brain Injury?

CordBank is currently in discussion with a range of medical professionals to see whether the therapy Maia received can be provided for other children in New Zealand who have access to their own cord blood.
If your child has been diagnosed with one of the following conditions

  • Any type of brain injury from a fall or accident
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Stroke
  • Brain injury resulting from lack of oxygen prior to or during birth (anoxia)

and you have their cord blood banked with us, please email us at info@cordbank.co.nz with the following information.

  • Your child’s first and last names
  • Date the child’s cord blood was collected
  • Child’s age
  • Type of injury / diagnosis

Until now there was no way to repair damage to brain tissue. However using stem cells from a baby’s own cord blood is playing an important role in inducing healing with nerve and brain cells, just as they did in Maia Friedlander’s, Ryan Schneider’s and Chloe Levin’s case.

6 Comments

  1. Francisco Serrano on 15 July 2009 at 10:21 pm

    Hi, I was moved to read this story in the East Bay Courier and came to the webpage to find out more on umbilical cord and stem cells. It has been especially moving for the past hour to read and see on the internet what is being accomplished, my little and only sister was born in 1976 with cerebral palsy and as I read it felt as I was reading a description of her when we were kids. We were born in Chile but we moved to the USA in 1978 in search for treatment that has been an ongoing part of her life. She continues to live with my parts now back in Chile and they visited NZ earlier this year, where I could see my sister continues to be a child as my own children are today, but with the need of much more supervision.
    At this moment I have mixed thoughts of how life could have been for us being born 25 years later, but at the same time how we also continue to pass by opportunities to take precautions in our children’s lives, with my wife we did not save the umbilical cord of any of our 3 children, although we had only heard about this for our youngest in 2006, when he was born.
    I believe that as information as this is made more widespread and people understand what they are being able to cure, our family ha witnesses it for 33 years, it makes it inevitable to truthfully consider umbilical cord storage and stem cell research.
    I wish to express my dearest join for the Friedlander’s family as they have a new beginning as a family, which for years has been awaited by families prior to them.
    My most sincere thanks for sharing these news,

    Francisco Serrano



  2. kirsten miller on 12 December 2009 at 7:02 pm

    hey ya,

    i have just been reading the story about the wee nz girl, my son is 17months old and in the last 6months i found out that he had a stroke while i was either carryin him or giving birth, and weve been getting help for it, but he jsut gets so frustrated and watching the nz girl he is the same as her with the hand movement and the lack off momvement its so sad, and its so hard, watching your pride and joy go trough something like that when their is nothng you can do, i would/never be able to afford the treatment for him, so i have no choice but to perserve with the treatment he is getting now
    it is so hard to sit back and watch him go through it knowing their is nothing you can do because their is no way you can afford it, and plus when he was born i didnt even know off the blood bank i wish i had off now,
    you never expect in your life time when you have children something like this could happen to them and when you find out what else do yoou do but blame yoour self,
    my son is my pride and joy and i love him the same jsut wish that i knew off the blood bank and had the money so i could get him the best help ever possible.

    maybe it might come to nz and then who knows, but for now, my son is my pride and joy and i will love him all the same, just wish’d i had off known this stuff then and not now.
    it is not knowin around the world expicaly around nz i am a young mother and i have never herd off it, only came accross it rhough an email i got from the littles website



  3. monique on 9 July 2010 at 10:30 pm

    thank you so much for telling people about your story. It just gives me so much hope seeing your story, my son does not have CP but he does have a genetic illness called Cystic Fibrosis which I know is being studied with the use of cord blood. I really really hope and pray that one day my son will also experience a cure/improvement in his condition with the use of cord blood. We have saved his younger brothers cord blood and its a half match to my son and so maybe in the future it will help to some degree.
    Thank you again
    Monique O’Neill



  4. Sharon Caven on 17 July 2011 at 1:11 pm

    Your story and the advancement in cord blood medicine is an inspiration to us, thank you for sharing. My youngest great granddaughter is scheduled to have cord blood reinfusion at Duke in September and as you said there is nothing to lose and we need to give her every oportunity for a full life. Hopefully doctors will learn more and encourage patients to save cord blood at birth and give patients information for help when there is a problem at birth.



  5. Wen Ji on 2 January 2012 at 12:11 pm

    I agree with Sharon’s opinion that we need to give our kids every opportunity for a full life. Our baby will be born in March this year 2012, we just registered with Cord Blood Bank. We believe that all parents want their children to be healthy and happy forever.



  6. Debbie Simmiss on 1 February 2012 at 1:00 pm

    I wish that this was available when my son was born in 1980, he has Multiple Sclerosis and like all of us it is heart breaking to watch the potential of any human being taken away by something we cannot do anything about,and all we can do is sit and watch our children die. I believe that this sort of treatment should be available to every child/adult if there is a chance to give them a chance at life.Your stories are amazing and I hope my daughter who is having a baby in March reads your stories and decides to take her baby’s cord blood, it is better than an insurance policy. I wish you all the best for your children’s futures.



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