Small miracles: How life has changed for Dom and H
Written by: Jeffrey Wolf written by: Kim Christiansen
DENVER March 10, 2010 – What if? That’s a question asked every day by people of all ages and all backgrounds. More than a year ago, two families from Denver decided to do something, to take a chance and find the answer to the big “What if” in their lives.
Their quest began in late 2008 when Harrison Spiers told his parents he only wanted one thing for Christmas: a stem cell transplant.
Harrison, who has cerebral palsy, knew his parents had been doing some research online about these type of treatments.
Harrison’s best friend is Dominic King, (known to friends as Dom and H) and he, too, has cerebral palsy. The boys met in preschool and have been best friends ever since. Their moms say they are almost like brothers. They compete against one another in math skills, but stand up for each other and help each other communicate whenever necessary.
Both boys are funny, charming and very smart. Becky Buckbee is their speech pathologist at Cottonwood Creek Elementary School.
“They are why I do what I do. I’ve seen them grow from little boys into these really great students and they have a lot to say. It’s just so hard for them to get it out,” she said.
Stem cell transplants are showing promise when it comes to helping people gain more movement and speech. However, this type of treatment is not being done in the United States.
During the procedure, bone marrow is taken from a patient’s hip bone to find stem cells. In a laboratory, the stem cells are chemically treated and turned into brain cells, also known as neurons. Doctors then inject the cells back into a patient’s lower spinal cord. From there, the neurons find their way to the diseased area and hopefully began to repair the site of damage.
A massive fundraising effort began in the school and community to help Harrison and Dominic make the trip and pay for the procedure, which is not covered by insurance.
It has been more than seven months since their trip to Germany. Their mothers call it monumental; they even use the word miracle.
Alicia Spiers, Harrison’s mom, said, “Life is easier for him now.”
Just about 24 hours after the surgery, the Spiers noticed Harrison’s hands were open, and they used to be clinched all of the time. He is now able to feed himself much better and use his communication computer with greater speed. It used to take him about 20 minutes to compose a sentence, now it is about three to five minutes.
Harrison is much stronger too. He used to roll around on the floor and watch television on his back. Now, he can roll over and hold himself up on his arms and watch a half-hour show.
As for Dominic, the biggest change is one that many did not see before. Dom is an avid reader, who goes to the library at least three times a week. He used to check out only audio books because his eyes would not focus together allowing him to read. Now, he can see the words and read them.
“That’s the big wow. This is amazing. It’ll open up so many doors for him, it’ll be huge and he can hopefully start showing people: ‘This is really what I know,'” Christina King, Dom’s mother, said.
Like Harrison, Dom has much more strength and is finally able to sit in his wheelchair without the shoulder straps that held his body back and prevented him from falling forward.
King does not believe any of this would be happening without the stem cells. Both families have no idea if there will be more progress or any negative consequences related to the transplant. Still, they have no regrets. Rather, they have hope that clinical trials in the United States may lead to new research involving adult stem cells.
When they look at their sons, they see tremendous potential. They also see more independence.
Spiers added, “He doesn’t want to live with me his whole life. He wants to go to college, to get an education and a job.”
You can learn about Harrison’s story (and Dom’s) at http://harrisonsstory.blogspot.com/.