Maya's Mom: Cherishing The 'Well' Moments

Host Liane Hansen talks with Dr. Mina Chamberlin — mother of 5-year-old Maya Chamberlin, who recently underwent a second bone marrow transplant. Maya was the focus of a December Weekend Edition interview about the difficulties of finding mixed-race bone marrow donors.

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In December of last year, we broadcast a story about Maya Chamberlin. She was four years old then, had been diagnosed with a rare blood disease and needed to find a suitable bone marrow donor to survive. Finding one for a child of mixed- race parents is very difficult.

Now, the good news: Maya found a match. Her mother, Dr. Mina Chamberlin, joins us on the phone from Cincinnati once again. Welcome back to the program.

MINA CHAMBERLIN: Thank you, Liane.

HANSEN: How are you?

CHAMBERLIN: We're doing well. Much better since the last time I spoke with you, yes.

HANSEN: Well, the last time we spoke you were talking about how hard it would be to find an exact donor match for Maya because she is of mixed-race heritage. What happened after our interview?

CHAMBERLIN: We did find a donor. He wasn't a full match. The donor wasn't a full match. However, the doctors decided to go ahead and pursue with the transplant since we couldn't wait any longer for a perfect match. In February, she started her preparative chemo for the transplant, and on March 2nd, the cells were infused.

Unfortunately, soon after the marrow engrafted - an engraftment basically means the donor cells are growing within the recipient's bone marrow - over a period of two weeks, the graft failed, meaning her body rejected the graft.

HANSEN: Mm-hmm.

CHAMBERLIN: Much to our blessing, there was another donor available who was also very willing to donate. She too was a partial match, not a full match. Maya underwent a much harsher form of chemotherapy with many more side effects. May 11th she underwent her second transplant, and fortunately this one engrafted. And so far, she has remained at 100 percent engraftment.

HANSEN: Yeah, you sound a little relieved. Is Maya recovering well now?

CHAMBERLIN: Yeah, you know, she is recovering well. And I say that with caution because - and any bone marrow transplant family will tell you - you live in the moment. Things can change very, very quickly. The uncertainty is one of the hardest things to cope with as a bone marrow family, I guess. So, you basically cherish the well moments and then you remain equipped to deal with the complications that come with it.

And there are many, many complications that come with bone marrow transplants - infections being the major one, since they are so immuno-compromised. I mean, they have the cells but they're still immature. They're not ready to fight any kind of infection just yet.

HANSEN: But so far, so good?

CHAMBERLIN: So far, so good, yes. I mean, we have minor issues but those are so minor in the big scheme of things that I'm not even going to address it as a problem.

HANSEN: Do you know anything about the donor, the second donor, whose marrow actually took, engrafted?

CHAMBERLIN: Yeah. All I know is she's a 39-year-old female somewhere in this country. That's all I know.

HANSEN: Yeah. She's given your kid a chance to be a kid again, yeah?

CHAMBERLIN: Exactly. And when I talked to you last time, my future was unknown and now we have hope. On July 3rd, we celebrated Maya's fifth birthday. A few months ago we didn't even know what would happen, where we would be on July 3rd. And we had a very, very joyous celebration on July 3rd.

HANSEN: You talked about the difficulty of the transplant and all the chemo that Maya had to go through. In fact, on your blog, you write that Maya has really had to spend most of the last year in the hospital, yeah. How has that affected her?

CHAMBERLIN: You know, despite being in the hospital I can tell you Maya has flourished intellectually and physically. She has kept herself very, very occupied by reading books. I'm proud to say she's reading at third-grade level, according to her preschool teacher. She did not let the side effects from the chemotherapy stop her from doing things that she really enjoyed to do, and that's reading and art work.

HANSEN: Ah, yeah.

CHAMBERLIN: And it is that spirit that kept us going.

HANSEN: Dr. Mina Chamberlin. She's the mother of Maya Chamberlin, a five-year- old girl who's recovering from a bone marrow transplant. She joins us on the phone from Cincinnati. Thank you. Good luck.

CHAMBERLIN: Thank you very much, Liane.

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