Local News

Bennett Child Receives Blood Cord Transplant At Duke

Posted November 25, 2002 2:01 a.m. EST

— The Bennetts have been waiting for a day that has finally arrived.

Their youngest son, Tommy Bennett, is having a cord blood transplant at

Duke Medical Center


"In a lot of ways, this is his birthday," said Alicia Bennett, Tommy's mother. "He's getting a new start. He's reborn today."

Said John Bennett, Tommy's father: "He's getting what he needed. He's getting what he didn't get from us."

Tommy Bennett will be the sixth child with Sanfillipo to go through the procedure at Duke.

His parents said it has been a difficult battle to win. They fought their insurance company to get the experimental procedure covered.

Tommy had to undergo nine days of high dose chemotherapy before the transplant.

"He's just Tom," Alicia Bennett said. "He just does his little Tommy thing everyday and rides his cars up and down the hall."

Said Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg, director of the Duke stem cell program: "What we're doing is using cells as a way to develop the enzyme that they cannot make on their own."

In the beginning of the procedure, lab technicians will thaw a bag of cord blood and separate out the stem cells.

"It will be like a little blood transfusion," Kurtzberg said. "The procedure takes just 15 minutes."

Said Alicia: "It's like watching hope just kind of creep toward him."

Doctors said there are risks. The new cells could react negatively, and there's a possibility that Tommy could develop a life-threatening infection.

"I think for me, that's my biggest worry," Alicia said.

The Bennetts do not know who donated the cord blood, but they do know it came from a family in the Triangle.

"Thank you is not enough," Alicia said. "They'll never know what they did. They'll never know that they saved little Tom."

After the transplant, Tommy will spend several weeks, maybe months, at Duke. Once released, he will remain in the Durham area for several months to have regular checkups.