Meet Jackie Stollfus

(June 2017) When doctors told Jackie Stollfus she might not be able to have children, she was devastated.

“I wanted it so bad. My whole life I dreamed of being a mom. And then I learned it might not happen,” says Jackie. Her husband Brian says the Texas couple had to get through some low moments. “It was pretty rough for a while there, being told that we may not be able to have a child.”

The reason doctors were skeptical of her ability to give birth was because Jackie had been diagnosed with lupus, a chronic, autoimmune disease, where a patient’s own immune cells can attack and damage any part of the body.

“I was not doing very well. I was dying,” says Jackie. 

The lupus was attacking Jackie’s kidneys. “At one point I was in acute kidney failure. I had arthritis, and my endurance was really poor.  I had a Master’s degree and I was on disability. So, to wake up in the morning and have my degree sitting next to me and I’m not able to get out of bed, it’s hard.”

Jackie and Brian tried getting pregnant once, but after a taxing pregnancy, they lost the baby due to complications caused by the lupus from which she was suffering. Just as they were about to lose all hope, they learned about a new treatment for lupus that involved an adult stem cell transplant.

Current state and future directions of autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation in systemic lupus erythematosus

Nonmyeloablative Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation for Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

Autologous haematopoietic stem cell transplantation for systemic lupus erythematosus: data from the European Group for Blood and Marrow Transplantation registry

The procedure began with harvesting and storage of her own bone marrow adult stem cells, followed by five days of intense chemotherapy to rid her body of the rogue autoimmune cells causing her lupus. Then Jackie’s stored adult stem cells were infused back into her body, to start a fresh, new immune system that would  not attack her own tissues.  Within months, Jackie began to feel better and regain her strength.  The transplant was a success and the life-giving adult stem cells began to help repair the damage that had been caused by Jackie’s lupus.

Before the transplant, “we were basically told not having our own children was quite a good possibility,” says Brian. But now that Jackie was recovering and getting her strength back, they wanted to try again. 

Today, seven years after the transplant, Brian and Jackie Stollfus are the parents of two beautiful girls, Tenley and Taryn. “Tenley, her nickname is Smiley. She was born smiling. And she has been the little light of our life and little spitfire ever since. Taryn is a lot more vocal, so her nickname is Squeaky, because at all times she is trying to tell you something,” says Jackie as she holds her baby.

“I think adult stem cells saved my life, gave me a chance to have a life, gave me that chance to be a mom,” says Jackie. 

Brian calls adult stem cells amazing. “It’s made our life so much better. It’s given us the ability to have a family and to do all the fun stuff in life and share that with our children.”

Jackie sums up how adult stem cells helped fulfill her dream: “It was my lifelong goal. If there’s anything in life I wanted to do, it was to be a mom. And to have these two little girls just light up my life and allow me to be their mom, it couldn’t make me any happier.”

You can read more about the lifesaving successes of adult stem cells at the Charlotte Lozier Institute.