‘I was scared of losing them’: Twin boys’ lives saved by sickle cell treatment in Central Florida

ORLANDO, Fla. — Twin boys Aaron and Ryan, 7, almost lost their lives to sickle cell anemia before coming to Central Florida for specialized treatment.

Marelyn Salgado brought her boys from South Florida to AdventHealth for Children, one of the top facilities to treat the debilitating disease.

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The condition is rare in Hispanic children, and Salgado said it’s not something she knew anything about before her boys were diagnosed.

“They just started getting sick a lot. A lot of pain, and they were crying and crying,” she said. “I prayed, I didn’t know what else to do.”

Salgado said she was told her sons’ cases were severe.

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“They’ve been in and out of the ICU, both have come close to losing their lives to complications of sickle cell disease even though they’re 7 years old,” said Dr. Susan Kelly, the medical director for pediatric cellular therapy at AdventHealth for Children.

Kelly oversaw the twins’ months of care at AdventHealth for Children, where the boys were given the lifesaving option of a bone marrow transplant with stem cells donated by Salgado.

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The boys first received chemotherapy so their bodies wouldn’t reject the cells. Both procedures, six days apart, were a success.

Now Aaron and Ryan are happy, healthy and considered cured.

“I was scared not to see them grow. I was scared of losing them and so now I can think about the future,” Salgado said. “That makes me very relieved and happy and excited, it’s so many things at the same time.”

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AdventHealth for Children is the only internationally recognized accredited pediatric program for treating sickle cell disease in Central Florida. Since 2016, the hospital has performed nearly 150 of these transplants to cure kids of sickle cell disease.

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Sarah Wilson

Sarah Wilson, WFTV.com

Sarah Wilson joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2018 as a digital producer after working as an award-winning newspaper reporter for nearly a decade in various communities across Central Florida.