4-Year-Old Donates Bone Marrow To His Baby Brothers

May 7, 2018
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A 4-year-old boy is fancying himself a real-life superhero, wearing a blue T-shirt with photographs of his 4-month-old twin brothers, who were born with a rare immunodeficiency disease.

Michael’s little brothers —  Santino, “Sonny,” and Giovanni, “Gio” — desperately needed a bone-marrow transplant, and when his parents told him that he was a donor match, Michael told them that he wanted to save his brothers and would give them some of his.

“Hey, Michael,” his mother, Robin Pownall, called out as she filmed her young son early one Thursday morning in March, running ahead of her through Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).

Yeaaaah?” he answered, hanging back to let her catch up.

You ready to go?” his mother asked.

Yay!” he said, pumping his fists and jumping up and down.

Where you going?” she asked him.

To save my baby brothers,” he said.

To save your baby brothers?” she repeated. “You’re the best.”

The little boy knew what was about to happen, his mother said — a long needle would be pushed into the bone near his hip to extract the marrow, then the cells would be transplanted into his brothers.

He did it anyway.

And later in that day, when his brothers received the stem-cell infusion, Michael was there to watch, jumping and shouting, “That’s my bone marrow! That’s my bone marrow!” his mother said.

Almost two months after the procedure, the twins were discharged from the hospital. Their mother posted a video on Facebook, showing Michael wearing a superhero T-shirt, smiling and standing between his little brothers.

“I saved you guys,” the preschooler said. “It’s time to go home.”

The twins were born in October with Chronic Granulomatous Disease (CGD), an immune disease in which the immune system does not work properly, meaning even a common cold could become life-threatening, their mother told The Washington Post.

She and her fiance, Michael DeMasi, were already familiar with the condition. Their oldest son, Dominick, 9, was also born with GCD and they knew it was a possibility that their other children would be born with it.

Following his diagnosis just weeks after his birth, Dominick was put on a transplant list and received stem cells from the umbilical cord of a donor. He is now considered cured, his mother said.

When the twins turned out to have CGD, Michael, who was not born with the condition, was tested and found to be a match.

The parents talked to their doctors about the risks, such as pain and soreness and complications from anesthesia, then they sat down with Michael and tried to explain.

Michael knew that his little brothers were sick and he knew that they needed bone marrow.

He knew that he had been tested to determine whether he was a match, his mother said.

When his parents told him he was, he said, “I’m the match? I’m the match?” Pownall recalled.

What a brave little guy!

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