It might seem surprising that a family from southern California with no ties to Minnesota would choose to spend the winter here. But Gregory Ramsey and his family did just that.
In February 2007, 10-year-old Gregory was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder called Fanconi anemia in which the bone marrow stops making blood cells. Because of the high risk of infection and the chance he could develop leukemia, Gregory needed a bone marrow transplant as quickly as possible. When his parents heard that the University of Minnesota was “the place to be” for patients with a rare genetic disease like Fanconi anemia, they headed north in September.
Snow and subzero temperatures notwithstanding, the Ramseys were happy to be here. The University’s BMT program performed its first BMT for Fanconi anemia in 1976, the first unrelated-donor transplant for the disease in 1987, and in 2000 was the first to use preimplantation genetic diagnosis to select for a healthy matched donor. Today the University performs more transplants for Fanconi anemia than all other U.S. transplant centers combined—with an enviable success rate. After the Ramseys met with John Wagner, M.D., the head of pediatric hematology-oncology and BMT, they knew they were in the right place.
“We could tell he knew the disease inside and out,” Gregory’s mother, Mary Ramsey, says.
On December 13, 2007, Gregory received bone marrow from an anonymous donor. After undergoing chemotherapy and irradiation tailored to patients with Fanconi anemia, he spent most of the winter in isolation as his marrow and immune system recovered. Then, as the last of the snow melted in early April, Gregory, with healthy marrow and a very grateful family, headed home.