Although she’s just a year older than her sister Courtney, Cayla Sales has always been very nurturing and motherly to her baby sister. It could be because Cayla has witnessed first-hand the painful episodes and frequent hospitalizations that Courtney has endured due to sickle cell disease.
Now 5 years old, Courtney no longer suffers any serious complications from her disease, thanks to a successful bone marrow transplant in September 2011 at Akron Children’s Hospital.
Big sister Cayla, who does not have the inherited disorder, was the bone marrow donor. The girls’ parents, Kimberly and Charles, called Cayla “Super Cayla” for the role she has played in her sister’s recovery.
Akron Children’s is one of just a handful of hospitals nationwide that offers the procedure as a potential cure for sickle cell disease. According to Prasad Bodas, MD, Courtney’s hematologist, there’s a 25 percent chance that a sibling will be a match.
Because red sickle cells are hard, sticky and sickle-shaped, they clog the flow of blood and oxygen in the body and cause severe pain, damage to the organs and central nervous system, blindness, infections and stroke.
Since being infused with Cayla’s marrow, Courtney is able to produce healthy red blood cells without sickle hemoglobin. Now a kindergartener at Voris Elementary School in Akron, she is learning to read and loves to play Barbies with Cayla. She also loves music and to dance.
“Courtney is now able to be much more active without tiring easily,” said Kimberly. “She’s also better able to tolerate changes in weather.”
Prior to the transplant, the Sales family relocated to Georgia in the hopes that the milder temperatures would help lessen Courtney’s symptoms. When her condition didn’t improve and doctors in Atlanta suggested a bone marrow transplant, the family returned to Akron, where they were comfortable with the Akron Children’s staff and had family support.
Even before Courtney started having problems, the staff at Children’s had encouraged the Sales to have Cayla tested to determine if she was a match, so they would have the option of a bone marrow transplant if Courtney needed it.
Now just a little over a year since the procedure, Courtney has settled into a normal life of school and playtime.
“She no longer has to make frequent visits to see the doctor. She’s just like any other 5-year-old little girl,” said Kimberly.
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