12-Year-Old Boy Cured of Sickle Cell Disease After Stem Cell Transplant: 'I Started Crying'

"He has energy and stamina that he never had," Elliot Preddie's mother said of her son's recovery after receiving a stem cell transplant last year

Elliot Preddie,
Photo: Mike Dickbernd/Riley Children’s Health

A 12-year-old boy from Indiana is getting a new lease on life after a stem cell transplant cured his blood disorder.

Since he was born, Elliot Preddie has struggled with sickle cell disease, a group of inherited blood disorders that causes a shortage of healthy red blood cells.

The condition — which can lead to frequent infections, pain, delayed growth and vision problems — caused Elliot to miss out on activities that other kids his age were enjoying.

"When I was younger, I played sports a lot, but then I got too cold from my sickle cell," Elliot told WWL-TV.

"That’s why I started quitting all my sports. My baseball and soccer,” Elliot said as he sat on his back porch next to his family.

"He just couldn’t enjoy life as a kid," his mom, Tremesha Preddie, added.

But a year after receiving a stem cell transplant at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health, doctors now say Elliot is free of the disease.

"It was a huge sigh of relief," Tremesha told the hospital. "We shed some tears for sure."

According to the Centers for Disease Control, bone marrow and stem cell transplants are the only cures for sickle cell disease. But the procedures come with risks and can present serious side effects. They can even result in death.

Elliot Preddie
Mike Dickbernd/Riley Children’s Health

Elliot received his stem cell transplant from an adult cousin, though the hospital notes that the best donors are siblings. Yet, Elliot’s younger brother, Carter, has also been diagnosed with sickle cell disease.

"We were released from the hospital after 37 days," Tremesha said of her son's recovery following the transplant. "You have to wait for the immune system to reboot before they can actually test it. The first test showed the bone marrow when it grew back was 100 percent donor marrow. None of his sickle cell bone marrow survived, which is what we want."

"When we got those results, I kind of lost it," she added. "It was finally real and confirmed that everything he had gone through and my husband and I had gone through on his behalf was worth it."

Dr. Seethal Jacob, director of the Sickle Cell Program at Riley, said doctors became worried Elliot would eventually develop complications from chronic blood transfusions, and that's why the decision for him to receive a stem cell transplant was made.

"When we initially made the recommendation regarding transplant, it was because we knew that without it he would need chronic blood transfusions for the rest of his life," Jacob said. "We became concerned when he started developing antibodies to the blood products he was receiving."

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According to the CDC, sickle cell disease affects 90,000 to 100,000 people in the United States. But the disorder largely affects Blacks or African Americans, occurring in one out of every 500 births. It also affects one out of every 36,000 Hispanic-American births.

Tremesha told the hospital that when she saw Elliot playing in the sprinkler on their lawn, she knew the transplant had done its job.

"He couldn’t do that before because the cold water would cause a pain crisis," she said. "And now he goes outside and plays in the sprinkler for hours. The first time he did it, I started crying. He has energy and stamina that he never had."

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