Cincinnati woman donates stem cells to save a baby boy’s life

‘This little boy has a mark on me, and I have a mark on him—forever.’
Published: Dec. 8, 2021 at 9:48 PM EST
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - A Cincinnati woman helped save the life of a child she had never met.

Kaelynn Speed, 20, is currently a nursing student at Wright State University. On a whim, she signed up to become a potential stem cell donor, not knowing that her decision would ultimately save a little boy.

The little boy she helped is Mads Pomranky. He lives with his sibling, Valen, and his parents, Jenn and Derrick Pomranky, in a city south of Chicago.

Jenn and Derrick said they found out Mads needed a stem cell donation after he became sick at 5 months old. His symptoms were subtle at the time, but doctors diagnosed Mads with a type of cancer called Acute Myeloid Leukemia.

“He was congested and had like a runny nose and that kind of thing when he was 5 months old,” Jenn said. “It’s something that you never want to hear, especially for your child.”

The couple was told that Mads needed the stem cell transplant to survive.

Not knowing what to expect, the family prepared themselves for what could be a long wait for a donor, but in May 2020, they got the call there was a 10/10 match. That match was Kaelynn Speed.

Speed says she immediately agreed to go through with the donation process.

“I just had those appointments to get my blood drawn, and then I had to go get a physical exam and then the four shots, and that was it. I did not know it was gonna be that little of something to do for such a big reward,” Speed said.

The transplant was initially scheduled as a surgery, but because of the pandemic, they had to do it differently.

“It just looked like he was getting a blood transfusion. It was quick, took like a half-hour,” Derrick said.

After a few months in the hospital, Mads, who is now 2 and a half, was sent home to recover. The donation was deemed a success.

Kaelynn Speed
Kaelynn Speed(Provided)

“As long as everything stays uneventful, he’s cured, and at the five-year mark is when they consider him cured of leukemia,” Jenn said.

Speed said she did not know the outcome of the donation until six months later, which is when she learned Mads had survived. Both families had to wait a year before they could make contact with each other.

In August 2021, they met, virtually, for the first time, in an emotional video chat.

“I’m looking at him and I’m like, this little boy essentially has almost the same DNA as me. That is insane. This little boy has a mark on me and I have a mark on him forever,” Speed said.

Jenn and Derrick hope Mads’ story will inspire others to become possible donors.

Speed registered as a potential donor through DKMS, an international non-profit focused on eradicating blood cancers. A spokesperson for the organization said the need for donors is great because 70 percent of people with blood cancer need a donor who is outside of their own family.

Anyone interested in registering to become a potential stem cell donor can request a free cheek swabbing kit online. More information on how to do so is on the DKMS website.

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