Holding hands, 3-year-old Teaghan Bresnahan and her mom run the length of the lake-front dock. At the dock’s end, Teaghan lets go — and gleefully leaps into the air to land in the water with a satisfying splash.
It may seem a typical summer scene. But for Teaghan, who has been in treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia for over a year, it’s particularly poignant. This type of leukemia usually requires two years of treatment. With the first year of more intense therapy now behind her, Teaghan is feeling better and getting a bit more swim time this summer.
Teaghan had always been healthy — in her first two years, her only sickness was a single ear infection. That’s why her parents, Mandy and James, were surprised at her two-year annual check-up to learn her blood levels were off. A second blood test three days later found her levels had worsened. Her pediatrician suspected a virus. That Sunday, however, Teaghan developed petechiae (small red spots caused by bleeding into the skin) and a fever. Teaghan’s doctor sent them straight to the emergency room. That night, May 3, 2015, Teaghan was diagnosed with leukemia. Treatment at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center started immediately. …
On September 24, 2015, in a sixth floor room at Boston Children’s Hospital, 5-year-old Logan Lesselroth pressed the button that started the transfer of his newly harvested blood stem cells to his 3-year-old sister, Gianna.
“This,” Gianna told him, “is a gift from your body.”
The path to that moment and the stem cell transplant’s potential to cure Gianna of her relapsed leukemia was anything but straightforward. Logan has a genetic condition called medium-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase deficiency (MCADD), which makes it difficult for his body to convert sugar to energy. Would his metabolic disorder be passed to Gianna? Would the disorder make it too risky for Logan to have his stem cells harvested?
Diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at the age of 4½ months, Gianna achieved a remission that lasted two years. In May 2015, the leukemia was back. With that, Mike and Marissa Lesselroth sought options for their daughter in their home state of Florida and beyond. “We talked to her doctors in Florida, and they agreed that coming to Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s was the best choice for Gianna because they offered a lot of treatment options for relapsed leukemia,” Mike says. …
The two boys in a sixth floor room at Boston Children’s Hospital – 4-year-old Zachary in bed playing a bike race game on an iPad and 2-year-old Gabriel asleep on his mother’s shoulder – are recovering from stem cell transplants for a pre-leukemia condition so rare in pediatrics that only 50 other cases have been reported globally. The brothers are among the seven children that Dr. Inga Hofmann has treated for myelofibrosis, a blood disorder that usually strikes older adults. This is why the Kaiser boys and their family moved here in February 2015 from Ohio to be treated at the Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center.
“Myelofibrosis is rare even in adults, but it is much more common in adults than in children,” Hofmann says. “Very little is known about children with the condition. The concern has always been that it could lead to bone marrow failure or leukemia.”
The Kaisers’ saga began at Zachary’s 2-year-old check-up in July 2013. A routine hemoglobin check showed low blood cell levels, and Zachary was hospitalized in Columbus for a week. His mother, Candice Kaiser, was nine months pregnant with Gabriel at the time.
Preliminary results of a bone marrow biopsy raised concern that Zachary might have leukemia, but that was quickly ruled out. After a year of testing, doctors finally reached a diagnosis: myelofibrosis. Zachary began a course of transfusions to control the bone marrow disorder, which causes scarring of the marrow because the disease disrupts the body’s production of blood cells.
But Carrick was born with acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Immediately, he was rushed to Albany Medical Center and then to Dana Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center. His chances of survival hovered near 30 percent.