In the Spotlight - Children’s Regenerative Medicine Program at UTHealth Medical School
It was a typical Friday night in Houston for Mallory Mayeux on July 5, 2013. She and a friend met for dinner in midtown and were walking to their car about to head home. Without warning, Mallory was struck by a fast moving car and thrown over 50 yards onto the sidewalk. Mallory was quickly taken to Memorial Hermann Hospital in very critical condition with a significant head injury and as well as other life-threatening injuries.
When Mallory’s mother, Vicky Mayeux, heard that Mallory was in an accident, she had no clue how bad it was. She and her husband immediately jumped into their car and drove from their home in Louisiana to Houston and found that their daughter Mallory had sustained a severe traumatic brain injury and remained in a coma. After assessing Mallory’s injuries, Fernando Jimenez, MS, RN and George Liao, MD — both members of the pediatric surgery research team — believed that she would be a good candidate for the Bone Marrow Stem Cell Clinical Trial for Severe Traumatic Brain Injury.
Charles S. Cox, Jr., MD, Director of the Program in Children’s Regenerative Medicine at UTHealth discussed the stem cell clinical trial with Mallory’s family and they agreed to enroll their daughter. Mr. and Mrs. Mayeux were willing to do anything to help Mallory and they believed that this clinical trial and stem cell treatment would make a difference in her recovery.
Currently, there are no effective therapies to treat secondary brain injury and the post-injury response of cell deterioration in the central nervous system and neuro-inflammation. Dr. Cox said, “My biggest concern was that Mallory had very, very difficult-to-control intracranial pressure, which means the inflammation and swelling was very, very difficult to control despite every possible intervention we had. Usually when that happens, it portends a bad outcome.”
Nine days later, Mallory started moving her left hand. When Dr. Liao visited her at the rehab facility he was so excited that she was talking to him, he asked her to talk to Dr. Cox for 40 seconds over the phone. “He handed his cell phone to me and Dr. Cox said, ‘Hi’, I said, ‘Hi Dr. Cox’, and he said, ‘WOW..WOW!!’ He was so happy that I was talking and making sense and I just said, ‘Thank you’ and I didn’t even know what I was thanking him for, but I just knew he was a good doctor.”
“When I get a call like that, when we had the expectation of things not going well, that really energizes our group, energizes me to really move forward on pressing on and not get discouraged by these little irritations because I think we are having some potentially big impact down the road”, said Dr. Cox.
Kevin P. Lally, MD, MS, Chairman, Department of Pediatric Surgery attributes the breadth of expertise at UTHealth for giving our physicians and nurses the ability to take care of literally any critically ill patient from the minute that they are injured to the minute they go to rehab. “Most of the support for patients with TBI is to prevent further injury and to stabilize the individual. They’re not actually therapeutic. We are very excited about these trials for traumatic brain injury and Mallory is a great example because it offers an opportunity to actually have a therapeutic advance for the existing injury.”
Nine months after her accident, Mallory said, “I saw the video of what happened to me when I was still in the hospital and seeing that and then being ok, still being here is definitely a miracle.” Today Mallory works in the Texas Medical Center and is enjoying the company of friends and family.