Durham, N.C. — The annual Mix 101.5 Radiothon at Duke Children's Hospital is always an emotional time. Callers help to raise money to support patients and their families, who come to Duke for world-famous care.
Lautaro Javier, 11, and his mother Gabriela Veronica De Pablo are among the many families at Duke Children's Hospital. But back home in Argentina, they are celebrities.
Top pay for Lautaro's bone marrow transplant, his family sought and got help from their entire community.
"We came out on TV, on the radio. There were singers who made concerts, even rock singers," his mother Gabriela Veronica de Pablo said.
They garnered a million dollars to get Lautaro to Duke for the treatment that might save him from a rare disease called metachromatic leukodystrophy.
Lautaro has a genetic defect leading to an enzyme deficiency in the brain. That can lead to damage to the brain, progressive brain disease and ultimately death, explained Dr. Vinod Prasad, one of Lautaro's doctors at Duke.
However, if the condition is diagnosed early, and a special bone marrow or umbilical cord blood stem cell transplant is done in time, that damage to the brain can be prevented, Prasad said.
Lautaro and his mother came to Duke for the transplant in December of 2011, six months after his diagnosis.
"We entered into treatment with Lautaro when Lautaro was still able to walk, was still able to run," she said.
Now he needs a wheel chair and help with performing simple daily tasks. But doctors say the new donor cells in Lautaro's body will take some time to show results.
MRI scans show Lautaro's disease has stabilized, and doctors think he'll be able to return to Argentina in a couple of months.
Though they are far from home, Lautaro and his mother now think of Durham as their second home.
"We've always felt very supported, very aided, very embraced," she said.
Donors to the Mix 101.5 Radiothon help patients like Lautaro with medical care and their families with the burden of being caretakers.