Children Cured With Cord Blood Transplant

The cure for an extremely rare and often fatal disease brings two families together.

By Karen Araiza and Allison Brucker
|  Monday, Jul 1, 2013  |  Updated 1:48 PM EDT
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Parents don't be too quick to tell the doctor to discard the umbilical cord blood, it could save someone's life.

NBCPhiladelphia.com - Dr. Allison Brucker

Parents don't be too quick to tell the doctor to discard the umbilical cord blood, it could save someone's life.

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An extremely rare and often fatal disease -- Malignant Infantile Osteopetrosis -- was the basis of an unlikely friendship that formed between the Shaffers from Landsdowne, Pa. and the Albornoz's from Ecuador when both of their sons were diagnosed.

The only treatment for the disease is a stem cell transplant or a bone marrow transplant.

"Cord blood is a life line for some patients," said Doctor E. Anders Kolb from Nemours DuPont Hospital. He treated both children.

Mason Shaffer had his life-saving cord blood transplant in 2009. A year later when the Albornoz's contacted Dr. Kolb in an effort to get treatment for their son, Dr. Kolb asked the Shaffers to reach out to the family for support.

"We immediately wanted to be able to help someone else because we had no one else when we were diagnosed," said Marc Shaffer.

When little Joaquin underwent his cord blood transplant in 2010, the Shaffers were there to walk the Albornoz's through the grueling, five-month process, which ultimately was a success.

"We keep in touch with them," said Sebastian Albornoz. "They just give us a big relief because they gave us hope."

If you're pregnant, you can ask your doctor about cord blood donation.

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