Cayden's second chance: 5-year-old has stem cell injection that may help his vision

The quest to save her grandson's eyesight began more than four years ago when Carmie Carr discovered a business on the Internet offering experimental stem cell injections in China.

At 4 months old, Cayden Baggett was diagnosed with optic nerve hypoplasia, a condition where the nerves in the eyes never fully develop. His family was told he would eventually go blind. Right now, Cayden can see light and dark, but little else.

Soon after learning about the stem cell treatments, the Carr family launched a campaign to raise $50,000 to cover the costs. The 2010 Gulf oil spill, coupled with the 2011 tornadoes in Tuscaloosa that destroyed their retail business, made collecting the funds next to impossible, they said.

Then, a friend told the family about a construction project he was working on just down the street. It was for a local radiologist who planned to offer stem cell injections to athletes with sports-related injuries.

He introduced the Carrs to Dr. Jason Williams. After talking with the family and researching the procedures, Williams agreed to help.

"There is no doubt in my mind this is the road the Lord has been leading us down," said Carmie Carr. "It connected like a perfect puzzle. We thought we were going to have to travel around the world. Instead, we drove four blocks."

A goal of Cayden's stem cell treatment is to stimulate new nerve growth that might improve his vision. Some children with similar health problems have shown marked improvement in recent years after being treated with stem cells in China, Carmie Carr said.

When the day of his procedure finally arrived, a groggy Cayden, now 5, was carried by his mother, Leanna Carr, into the Gulf Shores medical practice. During the procedure, Williams used the little boy's own fat through liposuction to harvest stem cells that were processed, then injected into his back.

Stem cells, sometimes called the body's master cells, are precursor cells that can develop into blood, bones and organs, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which regulates their use. Their promise in medicine, researchers say, is that the cells have shown potential to help regenerate other cells.

For about four months, Williams, a radiologist, has been performing stem cell injections, which are considered investigational in the U.S., at his Baldwin County practice. He has said the procedures meet FDA guidelines because the stem cells are collected from a patient's fat tissue and administered back to the same person.

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Cayden's second chance: 5-year-old has stem cell injection that may help his vision

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