Five-Year-Old’s Decision to Donate Stem Cells to Her Twin Brother With Cancer Saved His Life

Bioethics   |   Sarah Zagorski   |   Sep 3, 2015   |   4:13PM   |   Washington, DC

In Illinois, a five-year-old girl made the selfless decision to give her twin brother her stem cells to help him fight an aggressive form of leukemia. In 2014, Bradley Godish was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, which is the second most common form of leukemia in children. His parents asked his twin sister, Charlotte, if she would be willing to help her brother.

Her dad, Brian Godish, told ABC News the following about her daughter’s decision: “What Charlie did for her brother and my wife and I was nothing short of amazing. For us to be fortunate enough for Bradley to have a twin sister who’s a perfect match; we were speechless. Not everyone is so lucky. We were almost at a loss for words as to how emotional it was.”

He added, “She didn’t understand the whole medical process, but what she did understand was she wanted to help her brother. Her words were, ‘Yeah, just let me know when you need me.'”

In February 2014, the transplant surgery took place at Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. The family has decided to share their story now because Bradley’s cancer is in remission and the twins just started kindergarten. Godish explained that his daughter showed courage and bravery before and after the surgery.

He explained, “She never complained of pain, which ‘til this day amazes me. She had a huge bandage on her back and she didn’t want to take it off. It was sort of a badge of honor to show she helped Bradley. She was so proud. We really hope as parents they learn from this–to always be selfless to always help somebody out, to always give. Charlotte’s always been such a selfless person and Bradley’s been such a good-natured kid. This shows how valuable love and life is and I hope they never take life for granted.”


The surgeon who performed the operation, Dr. Jennifer Schneiderman, said everything went perfectly. She said, “The procedure itself went just fine. He [Bradley] had a high-risk feature to the leukemia, so a procedure was recommended. We look to parents and siblings to see if they’re a match and Charlie, his sister, happened to be a match. She [Charlie] gets general anesthesia and we obtain the marrow. She doesn’t feel it at the time, but typically patients will feel some soreness for 36 to 48 hours and then they’re fine.”

Dr. Schneiderman also addressed Charlotte’s age and said she was very willing to help her brother. She explained, “We do about 60 transplants a year and I’d say about a quarter are of brother and sister. As far as an age appropriate thing, she was very eager to help him and said she would do whatever she needed to do.”

According to the Information Resource Center at the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, siblings are usually the best match for stem cell transplants. The director of the organization, Beatrice Abetti, said, “Donating involves extracting stem cells from the hipbone or bloodstream to be infused into the ill child in order to restore marrow function. While the process can involve some soreness or discomfort for the child donating the cells, there is generally little risk in this procedure, and the potential benefits for the child with cancer can be significant.”