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Stem Cells Help Md. Boy With Cerebral Palsy To Walk

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Xander McKinley

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EASTERN SHORE, Md. (WJZ) — The miracle of stem cells changes the life of a little boy from the Eastern Shore.

Adam May has the amazing story of a mother and the choice she made moments after her son was born.

Xander McKinley was a beautiful baby–but challenging. The newborn didn’t eat or sleep well, and by two-years-old, he couldn’t walk or even crawl.

“Something just wasn’t right,” said Xander’s mother, Jennifer McKinley.

Jennifer McKinley got the news every parent fears. Xander had cerebral palsy–a brain condition that slows motor functions.

Adam: “Did you ever fear he would never have a normal life?”
Jennifer: “We thought he wasn’t going to be able to walk. It was heart-wrenching, that we knew this was permanent.”

Turns out, it wasn’t permanent. That young boy frustrated by immobility can now stand on his own, and even take a few steps–after a groundbreaking experimental stem cell transfusion.

Adam: “Aren’t you walking better now?”
Xander: “Yeah.”
Adam: “How good does that feel?”
Xander: “Great!”

The 6-year-old can finally climb a fence with his brother.

Adam: “You’re so fast now.”
Xander: “Yeah!”

Xander can practically run across his Eastern Shore farm with his walker. He can even climb the stairs on his swing-set for the first time in his life.

All of this possible because Xander’s parents decided to store blood from his umbilical cord when he was born. They never imagined that years later their decision would change their son’s life.

Doctor’s believe this amazing transformation came from stem cells extracted from Xander’s own umbilical cord. After undergoing the transfusion, those stem cells repaired Xander’s body.

“What we’re fighting most of all is ignorance. We have to raise awareness,” said Dr. Frances Verter, who runs the Parents Guide to Cord Blood Foundation.

Storing cord blood is an option many parents are not aware of, but some think it should become routine in the unlikely chance it’s needed.

“The goal is for everyone to save the cord blood,” he said.

Researchers are also studying how cord blood could someday treat brain injuries, diabetes, heart conditions, cancers and hearing loss.

Very few parents of newborns actually sign up for a cord blood registry.

Adam: “What would you tell parents?”
Jennifer: “I would highly recommend it because you never know what’s going to happen.”

Xander’s now in physical therapy to activate muscles that have never been used, and his outlook is promising.

Adam: “What do you want to happen in the next few years? Do you think you’ll be able to run someday?”
Xander: “Yeah, like my brother, without anything.”

And he’s getting there–one step at a time.

Cord blood can be stored privately, or donated to a public bank. For more information, click here.

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