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Child Who Received Cord Blood Transplant Dies

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(credit: CBS) John Lauritsen
John Lauritsen is a reporter from Montevideo, Minn. He joined WCCO-...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) –A 12-year-old boy who received a rare blood transplant has died.

Eric Blue, of Alexandria, La., had both leukemia and HIV, and doctors at the U of M Amplatz Children’s Hospital gave him a cord blood transplant to try and cure him.

In April, Eric received three ounces of umbilical cord blood, and at first the transplant appeared to work.

But last Friday he died from complications related to the transplant.

“Throughout the early stages of his treatment he did phenomenally well. In fact, we were just about ready to discharge him,” said Dr. Michael Verneris, an associate professor of pediatrics at the hospital.

But a few weeks ago he developed a disease related to the transplant, and passed away last week.

“It was obviously very sad,” said Dr. John Wagner, the director of the hospital’s Blood and Marrow Transplantation Division. “The very last time I spoke to Eric, he felt he still was going to beat the complications he had experienced, and he said I’m still going to be the number one cured patient of HIV.”

While that never happened for Eric, his fight provided Wagner and Verneris with hope. When he died, they couldn’t find any sign of HIV or leukemia in his blood.

Had he lived, he would have joined Timothy Brown of Las Vegas as the only people in the world cured of both diseases. But what doctors learned from Eric, could give life to others.

“At the end of the day, I don’t see this as the failure of the science,” Wagner said. “I see this that we have learned a tremendous amount, and we have a lot to learn still. But this is the first big step.”

Eric’s mom has HIV, and he was born with the disease.

Wagner said Aug. 1 would have marked the 100th day since Eric received the transplant.  He plans on conducting more tests to see how they can help other patients in the future.

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