ORLANDO, Fla. – An Orlando girl with a rare form of cancer is recovering well after receiving a life-saving treatment and should soon be able to leave the hospital.
Chloe Bella Carvalho, 4, needed a bone marrow transplant after being diagnosed with juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia, also known as JMML.
But as doctors explained, because Chloe is Portuguese, she had a lower chance of finding a match.
After News 6 shared her story, her family’s prayers were answered and Chloe found a donor.
On Dec. 13, 2019, less than two weeks before Christmas, Chloe had the transplant. It’s a day her mom said she’ll never forget.
News 6 sat down with her mom, Nayara Hermes, and Chloe’s doctor, Susan Kelly, who explained the process has been difficult but they’re so grateful for the miracle.
Hermes said she remembers when she first heard the news that Chloe had been matched with a donor.
“Dr. Kelly gave me the news and I was like, ‘What?’ Yes, we can be happy now and smile-- it was amazing, an answered prayer,” Hermes said.
Kelly is a pediatric bone marrow transplant physician at AdventHealth for Children and has been taking care of Chloe for about a month and half.
AdventHealth for Children has the only bone marrow transplant program in Central Florida.
“We’re very lucky to have a program where we can keep kids close to home – where they don’t have to travel because up until a couple years ago, they had to travel all (over) the country,“ Kelly said.
Chloe was given a very strong and aggressive dose of chemotherapy ahead of the transplant to kill off all of the bad cells and any remaining cells.
Her miracle transplant was then preformed.
“We gave her bone marrow from a healthy donor, someone who willingly without knowing her and without having any reason to volunteer donated bone marrow on her behalf—someone who is out of this country even," Kelly said.
Hermes said although they’ve had a rough couple of weeks, they are looking forward to the future.
“It was very sad to see the perfect little girl, happy and smiling just in bed and not being herself. But we are passed that, so just looking forward and it’s a waiting game. But we have hope, we have God, we have everything," Hermes said.
Kelly said patients are dependent on donors like Chloe’s because in many cases, patients don’t have a match within their family.
“So it’s extremely important for us to have people who are willing to do this for kids like Chloe – to give her a chance of having a long full and healthy, happy life that she deserves,” Kelly explained.
Hermes said she will be forever grateful for Chloe’s donor, and hopes to meet him someday.
“I appreciate so much what he had done for us as a family,” Hermes said. “He took his time, he wasn’t selfish and he wanted to help and save my daughter.”
Since the transplant, Kelly said that Chloe has been doing great. She told News 6 she will be able to leave the hospital soon, but her immune system is still very fragile.
“Because of that we were able to get cells for her. She got her new cells and has been doing extremely well. She’s close to getting out of the hospital maybe even next week,” Kelly said.
Kelly said children like Chloe are the reason she’s a doctor.
“That’s why I do what I do because just taking care of these kids is an amazing gift because they just have unbelievable will to go on and to find happiness and enjoy even in the mist of what’s a very difficult situation," Kelly said. “She continues to run around and be very playful, doing mural artwork in the hallway and dancing in the hallway.”
Chloe should be able to return to school and her regular activities in about nine to 12 months.
“Lots of successful stories, it’s a challenging cancer but we’re doing everything we can to try and make all of the pieces work together to give Chloe the very best possible chance,” she said.
Chloe’s mom said they’re just taking life one step at a time.
"I learned in this journey that we cannot plan, and it’s OK if we can’t plan. I don’t know what tomorrow’s going to bring. So today’s she’s OK, she’s fine, my family is happy, let’s enjoy today,” Hermes said. "I don’t know about tomorrow, I only have hopes and dreams. I’m happy with today.”
She said that they’re going to keep smiling and counting their blessings each and every day.