9:50 AM EST, December 21, 2012
She is the light of their lives.
In 2010, Thomas and Kari Whitehead of Phillipsburg, Pennsylvania, got devastating news about their little six-year-old girl, Emily.
Emily was diagnosed with a rare form of Leukemia, but traditional chemotherapy wasn't working.
By this point, Emily had made friends with other young patients. She was seeing those little friends die.
Emily knew how dire her situation was, and it was just seven months ago that dad was hearing a prognosis he couldn't, and wouldn’t believe.
Doctors said Emily had about 48 hours before her organs started shutting down. Yet there was one final desperate option. Doctors at Philadelphia's world renowned Children's Hospital suggested a cutting edge treatment. It was a procedure that had never been performed on a child. The procedure involved using dormant or inactive HIV cells.
That's right, HIV virus which is usually associated with AIDS, was being used to save a life.
Doctor Stephan Grupp said, "We used the HIV virus to genetically engineer the cells. But the virus that we use can not cause HIV, can not cause people to be sick, and we don't even actually give the virus to the patient. We only expose the cells, to the virus".
Still, Emily’s dad was very concerned. “We had asked the doctors you know somewhere in the world you have tried this before right, and they said no,” said Mr. Whitehead.
There were some touch and go moments, but Emily came through. Just three weeks after getting the treatment, Emily’s cancer was in remission.
And that's the very best Christmas present any parent could ask for.