Big Brother Risks His Life Trying To Save Twins With Life-Threatening Illness

 

Was His Sacrifice Worth It?

When children are in the early stages of their lives, all their parents wish is for them to be fit and healthy without a day of pain or illness. However, many aren’t that fortunate. Having recently given birth to twins, one young mother was soon thrown a huge curveball when she learned that her little angels had a serious illness. But when her oldest son Michael Jr. heard the news, he was determined to protect his little brothers…

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Building A Family Together

They might be still engaged, but fiances Robin Pownall and Michael DeMasi had already built a large family, having four children together. The South Philadelphia couple were blessed after welcoming sons Dominick and Michael Jr. into the world. However, they ended up doubling in the kids department overnight when Robin learned she was pregnant with twins! There was no denying that this news proved to be a huge surprise for the couple, for a number of reasons…

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Twins Were A Huge Surprise

After having Dominick and Michael Jr., Robin and fiance Michael were happy with two children and wanted to focus on their wedding plans. However, life had other plans and before they knew it, they had two more angels on the way. “God’s a good pitcher, I’ll tell you that,” she said. “He threw us a good [curveball].” The next thing that Robin needed to make sure of was that the twins had a healthy, successful birth…

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Bumpy Start

Although her beautiful twins Santino and Giovanni (“Sonny” and “Gio”) had a healthy birth, they weren’t out of the woods just yet, by any means. In fact, the twins had no choice but to stay in the hospital that they were born in. Specifically, they were stationed in the neonatal intensive care unit. And although they eventually got the green light to go home for the first time, it wouldn’t take long before they had to go back…

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Back To The Hospital

Just 10 days after they had gone home, Robin had to take Sonny and Gio to Philadelphia’s Children’s Hospital to undergo some tests. Hoping that nothing too serious would come from the checkup, Robin was in for a rude awakening when the doctors came back with results. They gave a diagnosis, confirming that the twins currently had a serious condition known as chronic granulomatous disease, also know as CGD. But what exactly did this mean for the babies’ wellbeing?

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What Did It Mean For The Twins?

The rare condition that the twins had, CGD, is a disorder that completely shuts down the person’s immune system. This means that patients are more likely to contract common viruses and illnesses. “It’s like the bubble-boy syndrome,” Robin said. “If we don’t do a transplant, they can get very sick from a small infection. A cut can be fatal.” Robin knew plenty about CGD as it’s not the first time she’s had to deal with it…

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Her First Son Had It

The reason that Robin had to learn a lot about the disorder previously was because her first son, Dominick, contracted the illness when he was a baby too. As a result, he had to spend a lot of time at the Children’s Hospital. It took him nearly a year of treatment and close attention before he could go back home. However, when he was just about to turn one, Dominick got the break that his parents had been looking for…

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Full Recovery

What Dominick required was a stem cell transplant and with a bit of luck and patience, he got it. Dominick received the transplant in question from an umbilical cord that was donated to him. As a result, his immune system was on its way to a full recovery. Nowadays, Dominick is a healthy, active boy with his whole life ahead of him. But it would be nearly a decade before Robin returned to the same predicament, this time with the twins…

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It Runs In The Family

It seems that the reason that CGD had affected both Dominick and the twins was that it was hereditary. Because it attacks the X-chromosome, male members of Robin’s family would be more likely to contract the illness. Another specific pattern of the condition is that the mother usually passes the gene to the next generation. However, with all of these worrying signs came a reassuring detail that up until this stage, Robin managed to overlook…

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One Of Her Kids Wasn’t Affected

It turns out that one of Robin’s children wasn’t born with the gene in question and as a result, it was impossible for him to contract the disease. And it would turn out that Michael Jr. was a crucial piece of this worrying puzzle for Robin and her family. He’d prove to be more important than she could ever imagine. However, despite being pleased for her middle son, Robin couldn’t ignore the bigger issue at play here…

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Worrying Times

Robin was initially worried for the wellbeing of her surprise twins after going through all of that hard work with Dominick. She knew she carried the gene and she always knew in the back of her mind that Sonny and Gio might face the same challenges that her oldest son did. Surely enough, her biggest concern ended up coming to fruition. She would now have to support her twins through this troubling time. But what did the doctors need to do to save their lives?

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They Both Needed Transplants

Similar to Dominick’s situation, the twins would both need transplants if they were going to stand any chance of surviving this process. And leading up to the diagnosis, this is what Robin expected to hear. If only it was that simple though. It turns out that it wasn’t just any standard stem cell transplant they required, as Dominick did. Sonny and Gio would need something more specific and that was just scratching the surface of their unique case…

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They Needed A Sibling Match

While Dominick received a stem cell donation from an anonymous party, Sonny and Gio would require a donation from someone who shared the same genes as them. This meant that their best chance of survival was to receive a donation from a member of the family, and even better, a sibling. Robin didn’t want to put Dominick under any more physical duress, after everything he had been through. However, she did consider Michael Jr. as a potential donor…

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Perfect Match

Lo and behold, after taking the necessary tests, it was revealed that Michael Jr. was, in fact, a perfect match for Sonny and Gio. Naturally, Robin and her fiance were extremely pleased with the results and were thrilled to know that they had someone who would be able to increase their babies’ chances of survival considerably. And while it was difficult for the family not to contain their excitement about the news, they knew they needed to temper their expectations, for a variety of reasons…

Huge Risk

The main factor getting in the way of Robin’s excitement was knowing that the procedure that Michael Jr., Sonny, and Gio would undergo was extremely risky. As a result, they made it clear to their middle son how dangerous this was and that if he didn’t want to do it, he didn’t have to. “We were straight up. ‘It’s going to be a big needle going into your back, bud,'” Robin said. “We asked him, ‘Do you want to do this? If you’re scared, you don’t have to.'”

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Big Question

After his parents explained to him about the dangers of the procedure, Michael Jr. was fully aware that what he was doing was risky and that he’d need to take some time to think about it. Eventually, though, he realized that he had an important question to ask his parents about the entire situation. All Michael Jr. was interested in was whether or not the successful procedure would bring his little brothers back home. Robin and Michael couldn’t believe their son’s question…

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He Wanted To Save Them

As soon as Robin answered his question, Michael Jr. knew exactly what he wanted to do. As far as he was concerned, he needed to do this for Sonny and Gio. Their lives were in his hands and as far as he was concerned, there was no other way. He wanted to save the twins. “Part of me was like, ‘Well, [Michael Jr.’s] four,'” she said. “‘Maybe he doesn’t know what’s going on.'” However, Robin assumed wrong…

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Asking For Help

On a side note, Robin and her family’s situation had been made known to her friends, family and the public through some charitable efforts. Her sister, Casey, did an incredible thing just a few months before the procedure and set up a GoFundMe page. The page didn’t just raise awareness about the twins’ condition, but it also helped raise funds to help her sister’s family in their direst hour. The first stage of the transplant would happen a few months later…

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Ready To Go

Despite her doubts about Michael Jr.’s part in this story, Robin ultimately needed to trust his judgment and go with the plan. “He was all for it,” she said. “We were in no way, shape or form going to push anything. He was all for it and we had a good feeling about it. It’s amazing – he’s so proud. Such a brave little guy.” Now that everybody was on the same page, the doctors agreed with the parents to schedule the transplant for March 8, 2018.

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The Big Procedure

So March 8th had finally come around and Michael Jr.’s procedure was underway. Without a doubt, Robin held her heart in her throat, as she trepidatiously awaited the results of Michael Jr.’s wellbeing post-procedure. Although she admitted it was painful to sit in that waiting room, she had faith that her son would pull through. “I thought it was going to be harder on him than it was,” she said. “He’s so small. You don’t want your babies to be in pain.”

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He Was OK

After patiently waiting and anticipating every single potential outcome, no matter how good or bad it may be, the time finally came for Robin to be reunited with her middle son. The mother was elated to see that he was alive, breathing and overall, fine. Just a few hours after the procedure came to an end, her son was standing up again and walking around his hospital room. However, this was only the first part of the transplant…

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Time To Complete The Transplant

Casey sought to update her GoFundMe followers with the twins’ transplant, giving a step-by-step account of the procedure. “Giovanni received the bone marrow cells [at] around 2:30 pm,” Casey wrote. “And then Sonny received the bone marrow cells around 5:30 pm. Both babies are doing well and sleeping. Now is time for their bodies to heal, with the new bone marrow cells to build up a healthy immune system.” This begs the question: was the transplant ultimately successful?

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He Saved Them

After the transplant was complete, Sonny and Gio needed to stay in the hospital for another two months. However, Casey eventually got a chance to give a definitive update on their condition. “It’s been a while since I’ve updated, but [I] wanted to thank everyone for the support,” she wrote. “The twins’ transplants [were] successful. They finally left the hospital on May 1 and are doing very well.” Michael Jr. also had something heartwarming to say: “I saved you guys…It’s time to go home.”


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