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Northland mom receives gift to stop brain destruction

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Early this year, we told you about a 33-year-old mom from Kansas City North whose brain was being destroyed by a rare disease. Now Kris Omecene's future looks much brighter thanks to a stranger.

This week, Omecene celebrated her homecoming with extended family. She's been in Pittsburgh for months.

"I missed her a lot," said her 12-year-old son, Eddie Omecene.

Kris Omecene joked, "It's like a miracle I got here with my father driving."

But there's that other miracle for Omecene. When we met her in January, she'd just been diagnosed with a genetic disease, metachromatic leukodystrophy or MLD, that was stealing her memory.

"People would call and leave messages and she couldn't remember what they said," said her mother, Mary Omecene.

Kris Omecene's body lacked an enzyme that keeps fatty substances from building up in the brain and destroying it. Her future looked bleak.

"I wouldn't be walking. I wouldn't be talking. I'd be more like a vegetable," she said.

A bone marrow transplant could give her the enzyme she lacked. With no match in the family, marrow drives were held with more than 600 people getting their cheeks swabbed and signing up for the registry, you can join the registry at this link.

It turned out that Omecene's perfect match was in Europe, and that stranger was willing to donate. She had the transplant in April in Pittsburgh.

"It meant my life," Omecene said.

She may not regain memory she's lost, but the disease has been stopped.

"It won't progress either, and that's the joyous part," said her father, Ed Omecene.

Her son says he has less worry.

"I don't have to worry about her getting any worse and at least not as many doctors' trips anymore, so I get to spend a lot more time with her," said Eddie.

Omecene will get a boost of stem cells from her donor in October. After a year, it's possible the two can meet.

Her mother says in hindsight, Omecene had symptoms of MLD going back to her teen years when she had dramatic personality changes, and medications she tried only seemed to help temporarily.