“Once we got to Cohen Children’s, we were hearing things like bone marrow failure disease, bone marrow biopsy, aplastic anemia, leukemia,” Margaret said. “But eventually, after a bone marrow biopsy, we learned James had severe aplastic anemia.”
This rare and serious medical condition, in which the body does not produce enough new blood cells to stay healthy, would require a bone marrow transplant to treat. James would be cared for at Cohen Children’s Bone Marrow Failure Program. Margaret said James’ pediatric hematologist/oncologist, Joel Brochstein, MD, was just incredible, helping explain the procedure—and why James’ 8-year-old sister, Sarah, might be his best chance at a bone marrow match.
“He explained to us that the best possible outcome, a 95% cure rate, is with a sibling donor—though there’s only a 25% chance that a sibling is a match—and that James would also need medications and chemotherapy before the transplant,” Margaret said.
“By the grace of God, the odds were on our side, and Sarah was a match. When we explained to her that she had something in her body that could help fix the boo-boo inside of James’ body, she said, ‘OK, Mommy, then I’ll give it to him.’ We call her Super Sister Sarah—she’s been looking out for James since the day he was born.”
It wasn’t easy for a boy so young to understand what was happening and why he couldn’t go home—or why he needed to stay in an isolation room. “We told him that something was wrong with his blood that needed to be fixed,” Margaret said. “He was excited when his child life specialist, Sammy, gave him his own Nintendo Wii game!” Though the Browns are grateful to the medical staff at Cohen Children’s, they commend everyone’s care and kindness. “Trevor, who would come in to clean James’ room, would always end up staying and playing a video game with him,” Margaret said. “And the chaplain, a young man named Adrien, would also come and spend time with him.”
Through the transplant process (in the end, James had two transplants), Dr. Brochstein and his team were unfailingly kind and caring to both James and Sarah throughout the procedures and follow-up treatments. He was also very accommodating to Margaret and Sean.
“Dr. Brochstein was always right there answering my questions. He never lost patience,” she said. “But what was more amazing to me was what great banter he had with James and Sarah. So many doctors talk to the parent and never talk to the child. Whenever Dr. Brochstein came into the room, he spoke to James first. It was really beautiful to me—and it really put James at ease.”