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Leukemia Survivor Credits Her Life to Tiny Blood Donors
Date:10/7/2011

By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Oct. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Jennifer Jones Austin works as a lawyer and child advocate in Brooklyn, N.Y., devoting her talents to protecting at-risk children. So it may be fitting that in Austin's own hour of need, her life was saved by donations from two newborn children.

Austin survived leukemia in 2010 because she received transfusions of stem cells donated from umbilical cord blood that had been drawn shortly after the children's birth.

"I would not be here today, sharing my story, if it weren't for those children," Austin, 42, said.

She had fallen suddenly ill with a mysterious ailment in September 2009. It started out like the flu, with fatigue and fever, but after a few days, she said, things got significantly worse. "I woke up and I couldn't see," she recalled. "I was blind."

Austin was admitted to the hospital and underwent a battery of tests. The diagnosis came back quickly: She had a quick-onset form of leukemia, and her chances of survival were slim.

"As they talked about how they would treat me with chemo, I started having very shallow breaths," Austin said. "I couldn't breathe on my own."

Another set of tests revealed that the leukemia had entered her lungs and was interfering with her ability to breathe, she said.

"They thought I was going to die," Austin said. "They put me into ICU on a Friday and told my family I probably wasn't going to make it through the weekend."

Doctors placed Austin in an induced coma, put her on a respirator and attacked the cancer with aggressive chemotherapy. She remained in the coma for 10 days.

Another piece of bad news awaited Austin upon her revival: She needed a bone marrow transplant as soon as possible. "They were virtually certain the cancer would return if I didn't have a bone marrow transplant," she said.

But Austin is African American, which makes it difficult to find an exact match f
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