Southfield woman meets boy she saved with bone marrow donation – C&G Newspapers

By daniellenierenberg

Grady Smith, 10, and Southfield resident Jessica Carroll were able to meet for the first time via Zoom in September at the DKMS Gala. Carroll was the bone marrow donor that helped save the boys life.

Photo provided by the Smith family

SOUTHFIELD If you were to take one look at 10-year-old Grady Smith, youd see a young boy who enjoys sports and school.

But the young Salem, New Hampshire, boy has been through more in 10 years than some people have in 50.

Grady was diagnosed with adrenoleukodystrophy, or ALD, back in 2018.

According to Boston Childrens Hospital, ALD is a rare genetic condition that causes the buildup of very long chain fatty acids in the brain. When the fatty acids accumulate, they destroy the protective myelin sheath around nerve cells, responsible for brain function. Without the myelin sheath, the nerves can no longer relay information to and from the brain.

Every single thing I read said, terminal, slow deterioration to death, one to five years, horrible, horrible death, Jillian Smith said. We just died. I havent been the same person since that day. It just changes you for the rest of your life.

With a diagnosis, Grady and his parents looked for options on how to help. Grady had a lesion with a Loes score which is a way of rating severity of 10. Scores range from 0-34.

His parents werent sure Grady would qualify for a bone marrow transplant because they usually only perform transplants for boys with scores of 9 and under. Grady was in luck, however, as Boston Childrens Hospital decided to move forward anyway.

The next move was to find a match for the boy, but that process could take weeks, months or even years. In Gradys case, it took just a few weeks.

Southfield resident Jessica Carroll registered as a potential bone marrow/blood stem cell donor with DKMS, a German bone marrow donor file, in 2014, but she didnt think much would come of it.

Four years later she got a call from the nonprofit organization letting her know that she was a match for a young boy. After some research, Carroll was totally on board with donating.

It was great knowing during that donation that this little bit that I went through was potentially saving somebodys life, Carroll said. Thats all I really cared about, was that I was helping somebody.

Grady was able to get his transplant in 2018.

According to his mother, Grady hasnt had any progression and has even made some recovery. Hes back in line with his academics and is playing sports again.

Grady has auditory processing issues, which make it hard for him to comprehend language and sound. His mother said he relies on reading lips to communicate.

Theres still a lot to it. It stopped the monster thats how we look at it but its not just so cut and dry, Jillian said. Hes a very rare outcome with his Loes score and with just how well hes doing. Hes just a really, really good boy. He works really hard to help bring awareness.

Carroll and the Smiths have talked via text, and they were able to meet virtually for the first time in September at the DKMS Gala.

For the Smiths and Carroll, the meeting was emotional. Grady was finally able to put a face to his donor, and vice versa for Carroll.

It was of course emotional, Carroll said. Being able to hear everything they went through, though, definitely made me so happy that I had chosen to register.

The Smiths and Carroll still talk periodically throughout the year, and Sept. 20 was the two-year anniversary of the transplant.

They are hoping to be able to meet in person soon, and the DKMS team wants to bring them to next years gala to help make that happen. However, they hope it will be sooner.

Throughout this journey with Grady, the Smiths have advocated, learned and spoken more about ALD.

Prior to Gradys birth, Massachusetts wasnt testing for ALD in newborns, but it has since started. New Hampshire wasnt either, but the Smiths got the state to add ALD to the newborn screening panel.

The next goal is to get more states to add the ALD screening. The family has also spoken at conferences to share Gradys story and have become big proponents of what DKMS has been able to do for not only their family, but families around the world.

I think a big thing, too, that we really want to get out there is bone marrow transplant or stem cell transplant, how easy it is, Jillian said. All people need to do is go on DKMSs website, and they can get a packet sent out to them. They just swab their cheeks, send it in and they could be saving anyones life, someone just like Grady.

According to the DKMS website, the organization is dedicated to the fight against blood cancer and blood disorders by creating awareness, recruiting bone marrow donors to provide a second chance at life, raising funds to match donor registration costs and supporting the improvement of blood cancer therapies by our own research.

Those looking for more information or wanting to register can visit dkms.org/en or call (212) 209-6700.

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Southfield woman meets boy she saved with bone marrow donation - C&G Newspapers

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