ST. PETERS, Mo. (KMOV.com) -- An extreme treatment plan saved a local baby's life 20 years ago. Now, her remarkable story takes another incredible turn as technology helps her make an unbelievable connection.
An aspiring actress, 20-year-old Demi King always had big dreams.
“I enjoy being in front of the camera, I can say that,” she said.
Her dream goal is to be Miss Universe. And her focus hasn't changed from four years ago, when News 4 interviewed her.
Then, she'd been officially declared cured from a disease known as SCID, Severe Combined Immunodeficiency.
Discovered soon after birth, without a functioning immune system, even a common cold could have killed her.
At barely a few months old, Demi underwent a rare stem cell transplant, using donated umbilical cord blood, with only one possible match, from an anonymous donor.
“She was our only option, our only chance,” said Pattie King-Brown, Demi’s mom.
“Everything has been great, no sickness, no nothing. and I am just very lucky,” said Demi, who along with Patti is from St. Peters, Missouri.
Now, with a new baby sister and close relationship with her mom, life was going on as normal.
On a whim, Demi decided to do Ancestry.com. She never imagined the DNA results.
“I was like ‘oh my god,’ I flew down the stairs to tell my mom and I was like, ‘you're not going to believe this, I am not Italian and I am not African American, I am a redhead!’” Demi said.
Demi's DNA results said she was Irish, European and Scottish.
“I was just confused. I didn't know what to think!” Demi said.
Pattie remembered what the doctors had said years ago. “They told us when they did that transplant that they were going to change your DNA,” she said.
Demi's doctor Alan Knutsen says yes, the treatment saved her life.
“If that's not corrected, most of these patients aren't going to live to be one year old,” he said.
But Dr. Knutsen said, it didn't change who Demi is on the inside.
“No, it’s just her immune cells, her white blood cells,” he explained. “The DNA is still what she was originally born with. That has not changed, that's still Demi."
But that's why even Ancestry.com recommends transplant recipients not take the test, because the results can be inconclusive or reveal the results of the donor.
“I was like, oh my god, I found my DNA mom, this is crazy,” Demi said.
And sure enough, that's exactly what happened.
The test results told Demi she had a biological mom, not her own, but the donor who gave her life.
“I am thankful and grateful for ever that this family did this, because without it, we would not have my child,” Pattie said.
A simple internet search and a Zoom call connected them to Jeff and Shawn Brewer, the donors who live in Festus. And to their child Sam, whose exact DNA now runs through Demi.
Without Ancestry.com, they would never have found each other. The Brewers never knew about Demi until now.
Kept apart by the pandemic, they can't wait to meet in person and share more stories, all stemming from a simple gift of cells.
But it's not lost on them all of the pieces that had to come together: the doctors, treatments, and each other.
“Then you had a four or five-month-old baby who evidently had an unbelievable will to live, so I think there’s a combination of everyone here, that saved her, not just us making a decision,” said Shawn Brewer.
“It’s awesome that it happened, it is awesome,” Sam Brewer said.
Their faith in God, science, and even Ancestry.com, all became the makings of a miracle.
“If you don’t believe in miracles, I am proof, I am proof,” said Demi.
Incredibly, the two families learned they lived just one street away for many years.
Now, they are huge advocates for cord blood donation, knowing someday, it could save someone else's life, too.