New FDA-approved medical trial at GHSU gives hope to children with cerebral palsy

By: Katie Beasley Email
By: Katie Beasley Email
Cerebral palsy study

Allison Thurman and her family came down to Augusta to participate in a cerebral palsy study at the GSHU Children's Medical Center. (WRDW-TV / Nov. 18, 2011)

News 12 First at Five / Friday, Nov. 18, 2011

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Just looking at 2-year-old Allison Thurman, you probably wouldn't even realize something is wrong.

"For the most part, she is just a normal little girl," said Allison's mother, Erica Thurman.

But about a year ago, Allison was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. It's a brain condition caused sometime in early development, possibly in the womb, that affects her motor function.

"It's devastating when you hear something about something as serious as CP when it has to do with your daughter," explained her father, Michael Thurman.

But even before that diagnosis, Michael and Erica knew something was wrong.

"We knew all along that there was some delays. She wasn't walking at age two, in fact she's still not walking," Michael said.

At Allison's birth, the Thurman family made the decision to store her umbilical cord blood.

"The reason we did it was just as an insurance policy, not knowing anything bad was going to happen, we thought it would be good to have on hand just in case," explained Michael.

The Thurman family lives in the Detroit area. They did some research and found the first-ever FDA-approved clinical trial involving CP and cord blood, going on at the GHSU Children's Medical Center.

"We feel really lucky that we were able to participate in the study, because it was an opportunity for her to get her stem cells back and hopefully help with her brain injury," Michael said.

In one of two visits this year, Allison received her own stem cells to help possibly repair some of her brain damage. She's back to check her progress.

"She has improved. Within a month of us returning from her first visit here in Augusta, she graduated from speech therapy," Erica told News 12.

While there is no cure for cerebral palsy, the Thurmans are hopeful.

"Our goal all along has been to help her reach her maximum potential. Whatever that happens to be," explained Michael.

"Whatever the outcome is, you're grateful for that," Erica added.

Allison turns three in March. She just got her ears pierced. She'll be back for one last evaluation sometime in the spring. Her mother says doctors and therapists are hopeful that she will walk one day.

The Thurman's also stored daughter 4-year-old Audrey's cord blood.

One reason this study is FDA-approved is because it's using the own child's stem cells, and not a sibling's or other donor's. Studies in animals have shown infused stem cells help injured brain cells recover.

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