January 25, 2010
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.”
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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.
First Colorado Baby Born From a Frozen Egg
Hayden Henzel, 2, is the first baby in Colorado to be born from a frozen egg. His parents, Carolyn and Gregg, participated in a trial with Schoolcraft that tested the technology. The Henzels were successful.
“There’s always a risk that your child is going to be different,” Carolyn Henzel said. “However, the process that we went through, it didn’t indicate that there should be any reason to worry that the way he was conceived would make a difference in his health or the pregnancy or anything else.”
Egg freezing still is considered an experimental treatment by the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, and there are health risks for the mother.
Noyes said the fertility medication, which is given to the woman so she produces additional eggs, could over-stimulate the ovaries and cause the body to take on water, or the woman could become short of breath, although Noyes said that is very rare.
However, studies have shown that the babies born from frozen eggs are just as healthy as other children. And the process is giving women, like Brooks, hope for the future.
“It makes me so happy,” Brooks said. “And it’s changed my life. So I don’t worry about it now. because I know that this is here. And I know that when it’s time and when it’s right, it’ll happen.”
KATE SNOW, SUSAN KRISKEY and KATE McCARTHY
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