Bone marrow donation can be a painful and strenuous process for a full-grown adult, and much more so for a mere child. But that wasn’t enough to scare brave 4-year-old Michael Pownall from donating his bone marrow to save his twin baby brothers.
Five-month-old Santino and Giovanni were born prematurely at 33 weeks last October, after which they spent five long weeks in the NICU.
After only 10 days at home, the baby brothers were soon hospitalized again, when the Pownalls received the devastating news that they both tested positive for Chronic Granulomatous Disease (CGD). The rare immune disorder increases the body’s susceptibility to infections that are caused by certain fungi and bacteria.
CGD makes it much more difficult to fight infections that most healthy immune systems can ward off with ease. Amidst the deadliest flu season we’ve seen in years (claiming lives of those in perfect health), Santino and Giovanni’s lives were in even greater danger.
Without a bone marrow transplant, they may never get the chance to live a healthy, normal life.
The Pownalls are all too familiar with CGD, as their oldest son Dominick had also been diagnosed with the disease when he was younger. Now considered “cured” from the stem cell transplant he received at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) eight years ago, Dominick is back to full health. The Pownalls knew the same transplant would be the only hope for their youngest sons as well.
Amazingly, their middle child, 4-year-old Michael, turned out to be a perfect sibling bone-marrow match for both brothers.
“We told Michael he was the match and asked him if he would help us save his brothers’ lives,” Robin told Love What Matters. “Michael said, ‘I’m gonna give them with my bone marrow!’ I explained the entire process with him, how it may hurt, and that he will be getting a pretty large needle. He said, ‘Is it going to save them?’ We said ‘yes’ and he said, ‘Okay, I’ll do it then!’”
And he’s been resolute in his decision ever since! This brave older brother is sticking by his guns to endure the life-saving procedure, even though he was terrified as could be.
“He was scared initially as anyone would be,” said Robin. “But his courage is far more than one of a 4-year-old.”
“We are currently inpatient at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia,” she shared. “The twins are undergoing chemotherapy and will receive their transplant from their superhero brother Michael on March 8, 2018.”
“We are transferred to TRANSPLANT and everything is going according to plan!” Robin wrote in a Facebook update this week. “I’m a nervous wreck! Please pray and keep us close to your hearts.”
As for Michael, this proud mama couldn’t be more impressed with her son’s strength and selflessness throughout the process:
“Michael is proud to be saving his twin brothers lives. He is so brave, he leaves his arm out for the nurse to draw his blood. He knows what he’s about to do. It’s truly inspirational. He gives me strength just watching how strong he is…
I am so scared and nervous for all three of my boys, but when I look into their eyes, I see strength. I know everything is going to be okay.”