‘His legacy lives on’: Grandmother who helped create newborn screening law tells history of bill – News-Leader

Posted: March 6, 2020 at 1:46 pm

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Two-year-old Regann Moore lights up as she watches videos on her iPad at home on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020. Moore has a rare disease known as Krabbe Disease and received a life-saving stem cell donation less than a month after being born.(Photo: Nathan Papes/Springfield News-Leader)

Soon after the News-Leader published a story about 2-year-old Regann Moore,a Springfield child whose life was saved thanks to a newborn screening test, someone tweeted the story toMissouri State Rep. Becky Ruth.

"I bawled my eyes out," Ruth said. "I just cried."

She cried because she knew Regann is alive thanks to the death of Ruth's grandson, Brady.

"I cry and smile when I see these children," Ruth said. "We are always so thankful. For us, we see Brady's death wasn't in vain. His legacy lives on by helping save the lives of other children."

More: Springfield child with rare, deadly disease continues to amaze doctors, family

Regann, who is 2 now, was diagnosed right after she was born withKrabbe Disease, a rare metabolic disorder that must be diagnosed at birth and treated as soon as possible with a stem cell donation.

The newborn screening is important because babies with Krabbe Disease appear healthy at birth. Signs something is wrong usually don't appear until it's too late for treatment to be effective.

That is what happened to Brady in 2009. He wasn't diagnosed with the disease until he was 4.5 months old too late for treatment.

Brady died 10 days before his first birthday.

Brady Cunningham died of Krabbe Disease just before his first birthday.(Photo: Courtesy of the Cunningham family)

That's why Ruth and her family fought to get lawmakers on board with making sure all newborns in Missouri are screened for Krabbe Disease.

TheBrady Alan Cunningham Newborn Screening Act was passed in 2009 and screening began in 2012. Ruthsaid her family was OK with the three-year lag because they realized the lab needed time to become equipped to test for the disease.

Missouri is one of just a few states that do the newborn screening.

Brady's law also includes screening for Pompe, Fabry, Gauche and Niemann-Pick diseases. Since then, SCID, MPS I, MPS II and SMA diseases are screened, as well.

Ruth became a state representative in 2015and said newborn screening is her passion.

Her experience with getting Brady's law passed is what led her to seek office.

"It showed me what just a regular everyday person can do and what a differenceyou can make," Ruth said. "People a lot of times complain about politicians and the legislature, but we also do very good things here."

Ruth said her family knows of another child with Krabbe Disease who was saved thanks to newborn screening and a stem cell transplant.

That child is now 4. Ruth said her family and that child's family have a "strong connection."Ruth said shehopes to someday meet Regann's family.

Brady Cunningham was born in 2008. His family is from Campbell in southeast Missouri.

Bradyappeared healthy at birth and was not tested for Krabbe Disease.

Ruth said he started having health problems after about a month and a half. Brady went through "a myriad of diagnoses," Ruth recalled, including acid reflux and seizures.

"Finally my daughter took him to Children's Hospital in St. Louis," she said. "They promised her he wouldn't leave without a diagnosis."

Missouri State Rep. Becky Ruth was moved to tears after reading about Regann Moore, a Springfield child whose life was saved thanks to newborn screening for Krabbe Disease. Ruth and her family encouraged Missouri lawmakers to make sure all Missouri babies are tested for the deadly disease after her grandson, Brady, died from it.(Photo: Submitted by Becky Ruth)

Three weeks later, Brady was diagnosed with Krabbe Disease, which rapidly destroys the nervous system.

"We were told there was nothing they could do," she said. "It was one of the worst days of all of our lives."

Brady was 4.5 months old when he was diagnosed. In order for a stem cell donation to have any chance of being effective, babies must have the transplant within the first month of their life.

Regann, the Springfield child, was given a stem cell donation thanks to an umbilical cord donation.

Thediseaseaffects about one in every 100,000 people in the United States.

"They are missing an enzyme that helps keep their nervous system intact," said Dr. Shalini Shenoy, Regann's transplant doctor. "Because this is missing, they have degeneration of the brain and nervous system. And if you let it progress, it is fatal very early."

Without the stem cell donation, babies die within the first few months, Shenoy said.

"You can't change someone's genetic makeup," Shenoy said. "But when you put stem cells into their bone marrow from somebody else who is normal, some of these cells migrate into their brain and into their nervous system and supply what they are lacking themselves."

It takes some time for the transplant to begin working for the transplanted cells to "settle down" and begin making the missing enzyme, Shenoy said.

"Because of that, the earlier you transplant a Krabbe patient, the more you will be able to rescue them," she said. "You want to catch them before too much damage is done. Once there's a lot of nerve damage, it's not reversible. If I saw a Krabbe patient two months after they were born or four months after they were born when they already had major problems, it's unlikely I'd be able to rescue them too much."

Since the screening and the stem cell transplant treatment are both relatively recent medical advancements, Shenoy said it's anybody's guess what the future will hold for children who, like Regann, were successfully treated with a stem cell transplant early on.

Ferrell Moore holds his two-year-old daughter Regann Moore at their home on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020. Regann has a rare disease known as Krabbe Disease and received a life-saving stem cell donation less than a month after being born.(Photo: Nathan Papes/Springfield News-Leader)

Regann can't stand on her own or walk yet. But her family is determined to make that happen. She cannot talk but is learning sign language to communicate.

She has regular visits with speech and occupational therapists.

Regann's dad Ferrell Moore got to take her to the circus recently, something the little girl seemed to enjoy.

"She is the joy of my life," Ferrell Moore said. "When I come home, it couldn't be any better to see her and how happy she is to see me."

Read or Share this story: https://www.news-leader.com/story/news/local/ozarks/2020/03/05/grandma-who-helped-pass-newborn-screening-law-tells-story-bill/4954655002/

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'His legacy lives on': Grandmother who helped create newborn screening law tells history of bill - News-Leader

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