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Transfusion Technique Offers New Hope

Garrett Larue and his little brother Blayke are two regular California kids. But their short lives weren't always so carefree.

"Looking back, there were some really hard times and hard decisions to make," says their mother, Theresa Larue.

For their mom, "the hard times" began when her 13-month-old son, Layne, suddenly died. That's when the family learned he and two of his brothers had a fatal genetic disorder that left them unable to fight even common infections.

"I just pray for healing and I pray for strength," said their mother 4 years ago on 48 Hours when the family tried an experimental and risky procedure--a cord blood transplant.

In the procedure blood is harvested from the umbilical cord of a newborn and then matched to a recipient, in this case in order to build a new immune system.

Blayke went through it first, and an infection nearly killed him. Then it was Garrett's turn. Only time would tell if the transplants would work.

"We are quite sure that they have an adequate immune system now," says Dr. Richard Stiehm of the UCLA Matell Children's Hospital. "And they are cured."

Cord blood transplants are giving hope to patients fighting sickle cell anemia, immune system disorders, leukemia, and other cancers, and parents are now being encouraged to donate unused cord blood or to bank it in case their children need it in the future..

You can look at this as the ultimate in recycling. Here's something that is just thrown away," says Dr. John Fraser of the Umbilical Cord Blood Bank. "We can recycle it and make it into new life for another child or even an adult."

Theresa Larue says, "We probably won't ever get a chance to thank the parents. I don't know that they realize what a gift they gave us."

It's a gift doctors hope will soon be given to even more families facing once-deadly diseases.

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