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Metro Detroit Boy Undergoes Groundbreaking FDA Stem Cell Trial For Cerebral Palsy

by Kathryn Larson
WWJ Newsradio 950

It's a ground breaking new FDA trial. And a Metro Detroit boy is one of the first children in the world to participate in the procedure to treat his cerebral palsy with the use of cord blood stem cells.

It takes a lot of love, but life in the Kijek house is full of joy, smiles and now hope.

"He has a contagious laugh and that smile. He's a really cool kid. He's in there. He want's to do all of those things. He loves snowmobiling he loves going on rides at amusement parks. Anything that little boys love," said Maureen Kijek.

Meet Drew, his mom Maureen and dad Christopher. Each day, they care for their 11 year with old son. Drew suffers from cerebral palsy. The condition causes muscle spasms, tremors and the inability to voice his thoughts or even hold his head up.

"His brain and his muscles don't work together. The things that he wants to do he lacks the motor coordination for," explained Kijek.

And that means life can be a challenge at times.

"It's like baby steps ... we've got to cross the Grand Canyon, but we've got to do it a centimeter at a time." said Kijek.

The family's one-year-old dog provides comfort and companionship. But the Kijek's say even though Harley helps -- it can still be hard. "He gets frustrated when he can't express his wants and needs," said Kijek.

But all that could soon change. "Even if he's just more comfortable in his body after the stem cell implantation -- that'll be a blessing," said Kijek.

Drew is taking part in a first ever FDA trial this month and next at the Georgia Health Science University. And that means stem cells that his mom and dad banked at birth could hold the secret to a possible treatment.

"The cord blood could find the damaged parts of the brain from the cerebral palsy and regenerate. He could possibly regain function," explained Kijek.

But amazingly, the trial won't involve any lengthy surgery. Kijek has searched for years for a treatment and is relieved that there won't be any pain.

The Kijeks
Christopher, Drew and Maureen Kijek (credit: Kathryn Larson/WWJ)

She says Drew's doctors are expecting big things. Reading research studies, Kijek found some impressive results. "One of the little guys wasn't able to talk. He was able to do both," said Kijek.

And the Kijek's are optimistic as well, because these stems cells are Drew's own.

"Stem cells ... it could be the wave of the future. To really be able to really help kids like Drew ..." said Kijek.

But back 11 years ago, when the Kijek's first heard of saving the umbilical cord blood, it was kind of science fiction.

"We're hopeful that this study will help increase awareness to banking stem cells and funding too ..." said Kijek.

And because Drew was diagnosed with cerebral palsy after birth they believe that cord blood could now unlock a bright and happy future for their son. One that's full of mobility and expression.

This story is part of an episode of CW50 Detroit's community interest program "Street Beat."  Tune in to "Street Beat" Sundays at 11 a.m. on CW50.

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