Cord blood recipient Catalina Infante Golowasch and her uncle Jorge Golowasch recently returned to NYBC to reunite with the dedicated staff that helped save her life. At 12 years old, Catalina was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), a rapidly progressing form of leukemia characterized by the presence in the blood and bone marrow of large numbers of immature white blood cells called lymphocytes.
A native of Santiago, Chile, Catalina was a patient of Dr.'s Juan Carlos Quintana and Humberto del Fávero during her treatment for ALL, and after two years of chemotherapy, she was told she would need a stem cell transplant to survive. In 2002, at age 14, Catalina was transplanted with a lifesaving cord blood stem cell unit from NYBC's National Cord Blood Program (NCBP). In 2004, Catalina visited NYBC with her uncle and grandfather to meet NCBP Vice President and Program Director Dr. Pablo Rubinstein and staff. "We all cried from the emotion," said Catalina.
Some ten years later, Catalina returned to the Blood Center to visit our Long Island City facility and tour the state-of-the-art laboratories where the cord blood that helped save her life is processed each and every day. "The technology and contact between doctors from different countries really helps save lives," Catalina said when asked about her road to recovery. "So many people were involved to help make the process happen, and everything fell into place in a way we couldn't have predicted."
Today, Catalina is a registered nurse in obstetrics at the Catholic University Hospital in Chile. Even during her illness, she never missed a year of school and kept up with her studies while a patient. This year, she also worked in gastroenterology and autoimmune disease research. Catalina's experience as a cord blood transplant patient inspired her to work in obstetrics so she could interact with the mothers of newborns whose cord blood gave the gift of life to her and many other patients in need. "We were all touched by this miracle," said Dr. Rubinstein.