An 8-year-old from Orlando is being hailed a hero after saving the lives of his brother and sister. According to WPTV, Stefan Aihe donated his bone marrow to help them both overcome sickle cell disease.
Kingsley, 22, and Vanessa, 13, were both born with the blood disorder which is one of the most common genetic diseases. The disease causes the breakdown of red blood cells which can result in blocking oxygen and blood flow to certain parts of the body. African-Americans are disproportionately impacted by the disease. According to a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 13 Black babies are born with the sickle cell trait. Bone marrow transplants are the only cure for the disease, but many people struggle to find a match.
After the family decided that they would go through the bone marrow transplant process with both Kingsley and Vanessa, they were surprised and ecstatic to discover that their youngest child Stefan was a match for both of their other children. Vanessa was cured after Stefan gave her a transplant a few years ago and now Kingsley is cured from a transplant that Stefan gave him in November. “It’s incredibly rare to have the same donor give to two different siblings. You know, to match is uncommon, but it’s not impossible,” Dr. David Shook told the news outlet.
Their mother Nikki Aihe says this has been a huge blessing for the family. The family hopes their story will inspire others to spread awareness about sickle cell and individuals will step up and become donors. There have been efforts to bring attention to the disease and its disparities. Pfizer recently announced that the company is teaming up with other sickle cell advocates to push research surrounding the disease forward.