A ‘maybe one day’ turns into a chance for Katie

“I keep thinking, what if I knew about the Duke University clinical study and we hadn’t saved Katie’s cord blood— we would not even have had this chance. She has a chance,” Katie’s mom Amy says. Her husband Paul chimes in, “If this helps Katie—it’s huge.”

The Murphy FamilyAmy and Paul are talking about their daughter Katie—a sweet, loving, social and affectionate four year old with a hearty laugh, infectious smile and lots of curiosity. Katie was born with a condition called hypotonia — low muscle tone that affects both her gross and fine motor skills. As a result, Katie can’t walk independently, she never had the coordination to crawl (although she’s quite the scooter!) and she was not physically able to sit until she was 16 months old—almost a year later than typical child development. Katie’s speech is also affected—she is currently saying a few words but working hard with therapists to learn to pronounce different letter sounds.

Rewind a handful of years when Amy and Paul were expecting. Amy got an email from her cousin. “Have you considered banking cord blood?” her cousin asked, reminding Amy that their family had a lot of leukemia in it. “Maybe one day it will help someone.”

As it turns out that “one day” has materialized. After learning about a study at Duke University where children with cerebral palsy are being given their own cord blood stem cells to explore if it is improving their condition, Amy got in touch with the study administrator. Six weeks later she found out that Katie had been accepted into the study. “It was one of the best days of my life,” recalls Amy.

It’s only been six weeks since the infusion at Duke University, which took place in early January 2010, and while Amy and Paul were told not to expect to see results for more than half a year, they don’t know how else to explain Katie’s progress. She has begun pointing to pictures in books, stomping her feet and bouncing to music. She has also initiated walking with her walker—something that only ever happened before with a bribe of M&Ms. Like Amy and Paul, Katie’s therapists can’t believe her progress, noting lists of new and improved skills daily and acknowledging that Katie seems more focused. Amy welcomes their feedback because although she’s trying to be objective, “I worry that I’m making things up because I’m so hopeful.”

In fact, Amy admits, “I have to pinch myself sometimes and say, is this really happening?” As testimony to the improvements Katie is experiencing, Amy started a blog “Katie’s Progress”.  While the blog helps Amy and Paul keep family and friends up to date with Katie’s developments, Amy has a higher purpose for it. “I want my blog to help spread cord blood awareness. I want people to know how important it is to save cord blood for their children. If you are expecting, you need to do the research and learn about your options.”

She continues, “We banked cord blood not thinking we would ever need it. Here we are four years later, and it’s totally helping our daughter.” Paul agrees, “If you have children, there’s nothing else you want to do but help them. This is something we did and it’s the best decision we ever made.”

See Katie’s progress for yourself!

Check out Katie’s blog , share your thoughts in the comments field below and help Amy and Paul spread the word about cord blood awareness!

**UPDATE 11/3/10**

The Murphy Family recently appeared on TV! Watch Katie’s story and see how she’s doing since her cord blood infusion in January 2010. Want to read more about Katie’s story? Visit the Murphy family’s blog.

**UPDATE 7/6/11**

The Murphy’s share their story with MSNCB.com, talking about their decision to bank and Katie’s ongoing progress – which her parents consider to be a success story:

MSNBC.com Article – Clearing up the confustion about cord blood

Katie Murphy

Want to read more about Katie’s story? Visit the Murphy family’s blog.

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