The Miracle of Molly
In the Fall of 2000, Denver’s Lisa and Jack Nash genetically engineered a baby in an effort to save their dying little girl. Pastors and pundits said it was the first step down a stem-cell-paved road to Hell. Five years later, the Nashes give us an exclusive look at Heaven.
She's fighting the needle again. It's Feb. 22, 2005, and Molly is in the hematology department of Children's Hospital. She's got her arms locked tightly around her purple sweater. She fidgets in the chair, shuffles her feet, and commands the nurse not to probe her special arm for veins. Molly glares at her dad, as if the blood test is his fault.
Dr. Hayes, the hematologist, delivers good news: Molly's platelets register a very healthy 395,000, a level that's held steady for four and a half years. The bone marrow is functioning normally. This September marks the landmark fifth anniversary of the transplant and by most standards Molly is a normal fifth-grader. In school, she likes math and science, and she would have gotten a perfect score on a recent spelling test if she hadn't misspelled the word "animal." She experiments with makeup, burns up the phone lines, and listens to ear-splitting music—The Black-Eyed Peas, Outkast, and 'N Sync thump through her bedroom walls. She's 10 and a half going on 13.
Dr. Hayes, taking Molly's blood pressure, asks how her brother's doing. Molly replies, "Annoying." Molly's dad rolls his eyes and chuckles. When Lisa was pregnant, she and Jack went round and round about boy names but nothing stuck—until one night Lisa woke up abruptly. It was so obvious. The name had been right in front of them all the time. It was right there in Genesis: So the Lord, God, caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh; and the rib which the Lord God had taken from the man made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, 'This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh....'
Adam turns 5 at the end of August. He and his big sister, Molly, bicker and bait each other like typical siblings. Yet there are times, usually when Jack and Lisa aren't watching, that Molly gently pushes Adam on the backyard swing and coddles him when he trips in the grass. Molly's careful to be a good big sister to Adam and 2-year-old Delaine. The newest addition to the Nash family was also conceived through in vitro with one of the healthy preserved embryos. "We were twice blessed by PGD," Lisa says. "Without this technique, it could have been just Jack and me looking at pictures on the wall."
Molly is still fragile; the transplant cured her of bone marrow failure, but Fanconi anemia is permanent. Like many with the disease, she receives nourishment through a feeding tube. Although she can eat on her own, Molly never experiences hunger. At dinner she unwinds a California roll and chews a few grains of rice or pushes the contents of her plate around in circles. The exception is curly fries—of which she'll eat four or five. At meal times and at bedtime, she's plugged into a bag of formula that fills her stomach bit by bit. For now, Molly's prognosis is good. But those with FA rarely have a worry-free life. Molly has 35 to 40 doctor appointments annually. She has regular screenings for solid-tumor cancers. Jack and Lisa are always on high alert—a common cold in the Nash family could have dire consequences for Molly.
Each night before bed, Molly bounces into her room and finds a million ways to procrastinate—she plays on the computer, organizes her book bag, shows off her collection of snow globes. Moments before she slips beneath the sheets, Jack or Lisa strap her torso into a brace designed to counteract the scoliosis that curves her spine. "It squishes me—sometimes it's hard to breathe," she says, pretending to gasp for breath. When Molly gets in bed, Lisa plugs in her "button" and a machine begins regulating the slow drip of nutrient-dense formula with a blinking red light and a measured beep.
"Goodnight, Mommy," Molly says.
"Good night, Molly, we love you."
Amanda M. Faison is 5280's Senior Editor.