‘Superhero’ 4-year-old girl donates bone marrow to save her infant brother

When Colton Land was born, few would expect the joy that came with his birth would soon change to anxiety over his survival. A week after he was born to parents Daniel and Kayla and siblings Krissy and Khloe, Colton was diagnosed with a genetic form of severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), a rare disorder that results in a weak immune system susceptible to severe infections.

Donating bone marrow would be the only way to save his life.

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In the 1970s, in the absence of a bone marrow transplant, the only alternative treatment at the time was for people with severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) to live in highly protected environments, or a plastic bubble.  People with SCID need to be protected since they are at extreme risk of contracting all kinds of infections and diseases.

Kayla said of Colton, “Nobody would ever know that he has severe combined immunodeficiency. He’s just a healthy, normal sweet baby. He’s been poked and prodded a lot, but he’s a little fighter.”

Through the Be the Match registry, cheek swabs were collected from Colton’s older sisters to check their DNA.  Though siblings only have a 25% chance of being a perfect match, tests showed that Khloe had the right genes for the life-saving procedure.

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Khloe was both excited and fearful of the prospect of donating bone marrow.  “My husband and I were hoping it was our older daughter because she understood and she wanted to be the one to help her little brother.  When we found it was Khloe, she was really excited at first and then fear kicked in within about 30 seconds and she broke down and told us how scared she was,” said Kayla.

Dr. Evan Shereck, who would lead Colton’s bone marrow transplant at the OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland, Oregon, added, “He’s incredibly lucky to have had a matched sibling.  We prefer matched sibling donors because we know the outcomes of transplant are really good.”

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Though apprehensive of the idea of donating bone marrow, Khloe was determined to help her baby brother.  Kayla said, “She gets down on the floor and tells him that she’s going to save him. Her cells are going to go in, take over and slowly start forming his immunity for him.”

Kayla expressed her concerns for her children on Facebook, “Tomorrow is the day.  It’s the first day to a new life for our sweet boy and a huge relief for Khloe once she gets done saving his life. Worrying for one child is so difficult, worrying about two is immensely challenging.”

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She also noted the struggles of older child Krissy.  “Big sissy is having a hard time — she’s held in all the emotions and stress for a long time and today was the breaking point. She can’t wait for her sissy to be out and okay.”

On her children’s transplant days, Kayla recognized Khloe’s heroism by dressing her in a Superman costume.  Happily for everyone, the transplant was successful and the children are on their way to recovery.  On their GoFundMe page, the Lands reported that Colton would be undergoing tests and receiving antibiotics and other medications to help his body accept the transplant.

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Khloe’s procedure, on the other hand, was minimal since the doctors only needed to take a small amount, and the proof of her sacrifice was literally two little pen dots on her back.  After donating bone marrow, she was immediately up and about, as if nothing happened.  The doctors were also able to get bone marrow that could be frozen for ten years, enough for two additional transplants, if necessary.

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The long healing process has just started for Colton and the rest of the family.    Kayla would have to stay with her son full time to ensure that his immune system is functioning.  They have also decided to home-school Krissy and Khloe for the next year to limit the chances of bringing home germs that may compromise Colton’s fragile health.

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The prognosis, however, is excellent.  Kayla remarked, “Doctors have told us that around one year after transplant he can live a normal life as a kid and be out playing in the dirt and being with other kids.”  All thanks to a remarkable act of love and bravery from such a young girl.

Watch the video below to learn more about our superhero’s act of courage: