It’s Tuesday and 4-year-old Addison Brynteson has just finished her weekly medical checkup. Next stop: “Anywhere with French fries and chicken strips,” jokes her dad, Joe.
Last fall, this lively preschooler was diagnosed with severe aplastic anemia, a rare condition that prevents normal blood-cell production, causing extreme tiredness, and puts patients at high risk for infection and uncontrolled bleeding.
Initially, Addy’s parents thought her bruises were just signs of an eager, if sometimes klutzy, toddler. But when she woke “with huge bruises like monsters along her side,” says Joe, they knew something was seriously wrong.
Because of the rarity of her disease, it took Addy’s doctors about a month to diagnose her. Then she came to University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital with a new challenge—she needed a donor for a blood and marrow transplant.
“The chance of finding a perfect match in a sibling is just 23 percent,” says Jakub Tolar, M.D., Ph.D., Addy’s oncologist at Amplatz, one of the largest and most respected pediatric transplant centers in the world. Tolar, director of the U’s Stem Cell Institute, currently leads the largest U.S. clinical research trial aimed at improving stem cell transplants.
Amazingly, Cayden, Addy’s 19-month-old brother, was a match.
While the U’s team prepared the Bryntesons for a 60-day or longer posttransplant stay at Amplatz Children’s Hospital, Addy far exceeded recovery expectations and headed home on day 41.
Joe calls the family’s experience at Amplatz “unbelievable,” noting the many things the staff did to make Addy and her family feel at ease. “If there is such a thing as a smooth bone marrow transplant, we had it,” he says.
And after seeing her in the clinic recently, Tolar is thrilled with Addy’s progress. “She was playing, running around the room, and dancing,” he says. “She is a star.”