Listeners may remember hearing Crispin Yombo share his story of his journey with sickle cell disease during Radiothon in 2015. He warmed all our hearts with his beautiful singing and positive attitude in the face of great pain and suffering.
Crispin has two younger brothers. Elisee and Denis. While Elisee was not born with SCD, Denis was. It broke his mom’s heart to think that two of her boys were going to suffer with this debilitating and life-limiting condition. Nine-years-older than his baby brother, Crispin wept when he learned that Denis had the same disease as he did. Fast forward 14 years later and Crispin wept happy tears when he learned that his other brother was a perfect match and could be the cure for Denis.
While Crispin’s experience with SCD has been very painful, Denis had what appeared to be a milder form of the disease, yet he was still at risk for painful crises and stroke. After many conversations, the Yombo family agreed that a blood and marrow transplant was the best course of action for Denis.
Elisee was scared when he initially heard about being a donor for Denis, but the team at the hospital walked both boys through the procedure and what would be involved. With their fears eased a bit, the transplant took place in February last year. There were a few unexpected complications, but all was manageable with extra support from the transplant team. Then COVID hit and the family left the hospital to continue monitoring Denis on an outpatient basis. Those were stressful days of back-and-forth to the hospital every morning at 8am for bloodwork.
In spite of some of these challenges, Isabelle says the transplant was definitely worth it. Her son is CURED of his disease. He will lead a long, healthy life free of pain. They say that Dr. Guilcher is their hero for the life he has made possible for Denis. With continued research, perhaps Crispin could be offered the same hope!
The Alberta Children’s Hospital was the first in the world to offer BMT as a cure for sickle cell based on promising findings in adults. Sixteen children received transplants as part of the initial offering – all of whom are well and all cured. Based on those published results, a multi-centre international clinical trial has now been opened. Dr. Greg Guilcher is recognized as an international leader in the field of SCD and BMT and he’s one of ours!
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