Recipients, Uncategorized

When Ellen and Brad Pinhorn welcomed their daughter, Rayna, into the world, they had no idea her life would be saved less than three years later by a mother’s decision to donate her baby’s cord blood.

Rayna was born a healthy little girl. As she grew, she explored her Bonnyville, Alberta, home in typical fashion, playing, eating, dancing and falling down. When she was 17 months old, Ellen noticed a red rash and bruising that didn’t look normal. A concerned family member suggested these might be signs of leukemia, and Rayna was taken to the local hospital’s emergency room for assessment.

The doctor’s examination found Rayna’s platelet levels to be critically low. He sent the family to Edmonton for lifesaving blood transfusions and more tests. On Feb. 5, 2012, after thorough blood work and a bone marrow biopsy, Rayna was diagnosed with aplastic anemia, a condition where the body stops producing enough new blood cells. This left Rayna feeling tired and with a higher risk of infections and uncontrolled bleeding.

After this diagnosis, Rayna’s doctors were optimistic that regular blood transfusions would solve the problem. For a year, the family travelled 243 kilometres to Edmonton for weekly tests and blood transfusions.

A later biopsy uncovered a defect in her bone marrow; only a stem cell transplant would save her life. The search began for a compatible donor.

With no stem cell matches found in Rayna’s immediate family, the search for a compatible, unrelated stem cell donor extended to Canadian Blood Services’ OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network. After a few possible matches failed, Rayna’s future was uncertain.

When all hope seemed lost, the family learned of another source of lifesaving stem cells: umbilical cord blood. This vital connection between a mother and her unborn child is rich with the blood-forming stem cells that can help save the lives of patients like Rayna. Once the child is born, parents can choose to donate their baby’s umbilical cord to Canadian Blood Services’ Cord Blood Bank, to be used by anyone who needs a stem cell transplant.

A compatible match was found and on July 17, 2012, Rayna travelled to the Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary to have her transplant.

“It took 15 minutes from start to finish, but the results were astounding,” recalls Ellen. “Once it started to kick in and do its job, we could see our little girl coming back.”

Rayna stayed in Calgary for three months to recover, spending six weeks in hospital and six weeks as an outpatient with checkups twice a week due to the risk of life-threatening complications.

On Oct. 24, 2012, the family was able to bring Rayna home. For over a year, Rayna had to take several different medications to prevent relapse or rejection of the stem cells. Finally, in January 2015, two years after her transplant, Rayna was taken off all medications and was free to live like any other girl her age.

Looking back on the experience, Ellen is very grateful.

“I want to thank the wonderful mother who donated her baby’s cord blood. Her selfless gift gave life to my little girl, allowing her to return to the active, free spirit she was born to be.”


Cord Blood Donation video

Cord blood donation (CTV News video)