January 25, 2010
The Doctors TV Sohw
Lisa and Jack’s first child, Molly, was born with Fanconi’s anemia, a rare and fatal blood disorder that decreases the body’s ability to produce healthy blood cells and can lead to leukemia. By age 6, Molly, who was born without thumbs and with deformed arms, a small head and a hole in her heart, was in desperate need of a stem-cell transplant. Without it, she had only a 20 percent chance of survival.
“When Molly was little, we were given a death sentence that Molly wasn’t going to live beyond 7,” Lisa says. “And any other kids that we would have would most likely have this disease.”
A stem-cell transplant of umbilical cord blood from a sibling would increase Molly’s chance for survival by more than 60 percent. However, the likelihood that another child Lisa gave birth to would suffer from Fanconi’s anemia made the decision difficult. “In my heart, I wasn’t going to let her die without a fight,” Lisa says. “I was going to do everything in my power to try to give her a chance and to have a family.”
To ensure another child was not born with the disorder, Lisa and Jack used preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), a process similar to in vitro fertilization.
“Once the embryos grow for three days, we take one cell from an eight-cell embryo,” says founder and medical director of the Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine Dr. William B. Schoolcraft. “We can remove one cell without harming the embryo. That single cell is used to analyze the DNA of the entire embryo — in this case to check for Fanconi’s anemia and also to see if it’s an HLA [human leukocyte antigen] match for its sibling.”
HLA is a major factor in determining donor compatibility, and Dr. Schoolcraft found one of the couple’s embryos to implant that was both an HLA match and free of Fanconi’s anemia. Lisa became pregnant and had a son, Adam, whose cord-blood was transplanted into Molly.
Lisa reports that Molly is cured and she and Adam are doing great. “Molly is 15 and she is a 15-year-old. She’s sweet and darling one minute, and the next second, she’s possessed,” Lisa jokes. “Adam is 9 and he is all boy. He plays every sport known to man. They fight like siblings and they love like siblings, and they have a little sister [Delaney] who was also conceived through [PGD]. And we have a family.”
There are no guarantees with the procedure. Noyes tells her patients they have about a 50 percent chance of getting pregnant per batch of frozen eggs.