Ieshea Thomas, who has suffered from
Her sister Ivenus' donation of stem cells in November means Thomas' body is now able to produce normally shaped
Now, Thomas, 32, said she has become healthy enough to attend the graduation of her 14-year-old daughter, Miayatha, from junior high school.
"I'm glad I'm able to be here, to know her, to be her mom again. I'm so thankful for my sister," said Thomas, who lives in Chicago.
In the clinical trial, sickle cell anemia patients like Thomas are given stem cells that take over the function of producing red blood cells from their bone marrow.
The transplant addresses the central problem caused by the illness, which affects 90,000 to 100,000 Americans, according to the federal
"The only cure (for sickle cell anemia) is if you can change completely the
Patients can have painful health crises for many years, and the sickle shape can affect any organ.
Although the preparation of a sickle cell anemia patient for a stem cell transplant usually includes
Once the stem cell is implanted, "monitoring (the patient) is very important. Initially, it's very often, to make sure they are safe, to guarantee they do not have rejection (of the transplant)," Rondelli said.
Initially, monitoring occurs every week, then decreases to every month, then to every three months, then to every six months, and then to once a year.
So far, the trial includes two completed transplants, and Rondelli is currently preparing to do a third one.
He is very optimistic about the trial. "This is the exciting part. We can in the Midwest offer this type of treatment to patients with sickle cell anemia," Rondelli said.
Patients with sickle cell anemia who are between the ages of 18 and 60 years are eligible for the transplant. At this point, eligible donors must be a full sibling of a patient and not have sickle cell anemia.
Both the timetable for the trial, and the number of participants that will ultimately participate, have not yet been determined, Rondelli said.
Thomas said the results so far in her care are "very exciting."
She is no longer taking pain medication, but is instead swallowing vitamins to help the transplant continue to work well in her body.