This 5-Year-Old COVID-19 Patient Donated His Stem Cells To Save His Sister’s Life

Jio (left). source: Ramathibodi Hospital/ The Bangkok Post

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. This time, it’s a 5-year-old Thai boy who donated his stem cells to save his sister’s life. A day before surgery, doctors discovered that the boy was infected with COVID-19.

Sila “Jio” Boonklomjit underwent an experimental procedure at the Ramathibodi Hospital to donate his stem cells to his sister, 7-year-old Jintanakan “Jean” Boonklomjit who was born with Thalassemia and was in critical condition, according to Bangkok Post.

“It’s as if my daughter was reborn and gets a new life,” said Suchai Boonklomjit, the children’s father.

The procedure began in April was completed on 23 June with great success, but the road to it was not easy, especially discovering that Jio had contracted COVID-19, said Professor Dr Suradet Hongeng, an expert in stem cell transplant at the hospital.

Jio, Jean and their parents. source: Ramathibodi Hospital

“That made Jio another patient. So each and every step had to be done with special care. The collection of stem cells from bone marrow was surrounded with risks, including the risk of having stem cells infected with COVID-19,”

There were other difficulties that followed, partly because of the patients’ age. Jean’s immune system was affected by chemotherapy, while her brother Jio had to be placed under quarantine. Doctors said it was likely that he had contracted the virus from their mother, Sasiwimol Boonklomjit.

Associate Professor Dr Usanarat Anurathapan, who performed the transplant, said there was only a 25% chance that the siblings would have the same tissue type, and it wasn’t easy to find another donor because it was rare to find compatible stem cells from a donor who is not genetically related.

It’s believed to be the world’s first successful case of a stem cell transplant from a donor infected with COVID-19. Both Jio and his mother have recovered from the virus.

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