New research gives hope to transplant patients – WCNC

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Kingston Forrest is like most toddlers, ready to play wherever he is, even if it’s a hospital.

“He’s always been a happy baby, very happy go lucky,” said Kingston’s mother Michelle.

That’s why she knew something was wrong about a year and a half ago, when Kingston couldn’t seem to get over a cold. Kingston’s pediatrician thought he might have an ear infection, but the prescribed medicine didn’t work.

“After giving him that over the weekend, I noticed some little black and blue bruises on his forehead, and he had a lump on his knee, and I thought, ‘that’s odd,” said Michelle. “Then the final straw was when one side of his face went completely numb.”

Soon after this discovery, Kingston was diagnosed with leukemia. He was treated with four rounds of chemotherapy, but four months later the disease returned. It was at that point doctors learned Kingston would need a bone marrow transplant to save his life.

Michelle was Kingston’s donor, with one slight catch. She wasn’t a perfect match, only a half-match.

“It felt good knowing I could give life back to him. It was like a rebirth that happened on December 26th for him,” said Michelle.

Kingston is recovering well. Dr. Andrew Gilman says doctors know a lot more now about handling rejection in these cases.

“A challenge that’s persisted this whole time is when we do a half-match transplant this way, the immune system remains weak for a significant time after the transplant,” Dr. Gilman told WCNC.

That complication can sometimes last as long as a year, meaning a high chance of infection, or worse, a recurring bout with leukemia. New drugs are helping patients recover quicker without hospitalization.

“We love that for our patients, when they don’t feel sick or be in the hospital afterwards. It also means that more patients can have transplants,” said Dr. Gilman.

One part of Kingston’s immune system is strong, but he still comes to Levine Children’s Hospital monthly to receive donor antibodies that help fight off viruses. His body simply doesn’t yet make enough of its own, but his mom is encouraged.

“I’m just thankful that we got another year,” said Michelle. “And hopefully we get many more.”

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