Before he was born, Jamie Whitaker was genetically matched so he could save the life of his brother, Charlie. Jamie’s parents used embryo selection to ensure that an embryo was implanted that would be a match for brother Charlie. Stem cells from Jamie were transplanted into Charlie when he was 5. Now, aged 12, Charlie has been declared cured of the rare Diamond Blackfan Anaemia (DBA), which threatened his life.
Charlie was just 12 weeks old when parents Michelle and Jayson noticed something wasn’t right.
“He barely ate, looked so grey and was very floppy. The doctor told me I was beign an over anxious first-time mum. But I was so certain something was wrong that I took Charlie to my office Christmas Party at John Radcliffe Hospital and asked one of the specialists to have a look at him,” Michelle, a former medical secretary said.
Charlie was diagnosed with the blood condition DBA and needed transfusions every two to three weeks in hospital, leading to a bone marrow transplant being his only hope for a cure.
Neither Michelle, Jayson or Charlie’s sister Emily, born two years after his diagnosis, were a suitable match.
“We both agreed that embryo selection was the obvious answer. We wanted another baby anyway and fixing Charlie’s condition would be the by-product,” said dad Jayson.
Embryo selection was banned in the UK, but fertility expert Mohammed Taranissi, was keen to help the family and sent them to The Reproductive Genetics Institute in Chicago.
Jamie was born in 2003 and now, eight years later, his brother is cured.
Since Jamie was born, the UK fertility watchdog has relaxed its rules and it now allows healthy embryos to be selected to provide blood cell transplants to treat such siblings.
“I was three when mummy and daddy told me I saved my brother’s life. I’m happy that I did but don’t really feel like a superhero. I feel good and bad about it. One bad thing is that Charlie nearly died and the other bad thing is that Emily was upset she couldn’t save him,” Jamie said, reports the Daily Mail.
“I used to ask Mummy and Daddy why I couldn’t help save Charlie and felt left out,” said Emily, “They explained I had princess blood and Jamie and Charlie had army blood. I was fine then because I don’t want army blood.”
Jamie also understands that if it wasn’t for him, then his brother may not be here today.
“I know that I was born to do that instead of being born for me. It makes me feel close to Charlie. I also know that Mummy and Daddy want and love me,” Jamie said.