Incredible reward at no cost – How cord blood donations are changing lives at TMC

Cord Blood Kristen Wilt

Cord blood donations can enhance and save lives, and do even more – providing donors and their families with the uplifting benefit of knowing their cord blood gift will have a positive impact for years to come.

“My brother-in-law passed away from a rare blood disorder when he was just 19,” said Stephanie Babcock, a mom who recently donated the cord blood from her baby Midori at TMC. “It’s so rewarding to know our donation can save someone like my brother-in-law – we know what it means to that person and their family.”

What is cord blood?

What exactly is cord blood and why is it so beneficial?

“Cord blood is the blood that is left inside the umbilical cord and placenta after a baby is born,” said Kristen Wilt, cord blood coordinator at TMC. “It is so important because it contains blood-forming stem cells that can be used in blood transfusions to heal or repair damaged cells that cause serious diseases.”

Saving and improving lives

Wilt explained cord blood stem cells are used to treat more than 80 life-threatening diseases, which include many forms of cancer, as well as immune and genetic disorders. “Acute myeloid leukemia, Hodgkin’s lymphoma and sickle cell anemia to name just a few,” Wilt said.

Cord Blood 4Blood transplants can have a significant and permanent effect for individuals facing specific debilitating and severe health challenges, she explained. “By and large, the treatments can cure many diseases or have a significant impact that dramatically improves the quality of life for the recipient.”

How donation works

Wilt said the process is quick, easy, and it is free. “At TMC the mom and family are asked if they would like to donate the cord blood immediately after birth,” explained Wilt. “There is one simple consent form to sign and a health history questionnaire to review and you’re done – you’ve just created a life-saving possibility for someone.”

Participation in the Arizona Public Cord Blood Program is growing, but currently available only in a few Arizona hospitals. “It made a great impression on us that TMC was the only hospital in Southern Arizona who offers cord blood donation,” said donor Babcock. “It can seem like a small thing but has such an incredible impact.”

Cord blood donations from TMC have gone to help patients all over the United States and as far away as Australia.

Safety and anonymity

Donating cord blood poses no risk to the baby or mom because the cord blood is collected after the birth, when the placenta and umbilical cord are no longer needed.

The hospital assigns a number to each donation so that it is received and tracked by the public cord blood bank anonymously.

“We did our research,” said Babcock. “We had no concerns about safety or privacy – TMC made it a simple, easy part of the birthing experience.”

Cord Blood 3

Where it goes and how it helps

For the past four years, TMC has worked with the Arizona Public Cord Blood Program and has provided almost 5,000 cord blood donations.

“Within 48 hours, the cord blood is delivered to the University of Colorado Cord Blood Bank (an FDA-licensed facility), where it is cryopreserved in liquid nitrogen tanks,” said Wilt. “This process conserves the stem cells in the blood for a very long time – donations have been used after 20-25 years.”

The donation becomes part of the national registry managed by NMDP/Be the Match registry. “Worldwide, patients of all ages who are in need can work with the registry to determine if they are a match,” Wilt said.

Why your donation matters, for others and for you

Some moms and families decide to save and privately store their baby’s cord blood. However, the cryopreservation process and on-going storage fees can be cost-prohibitive. “If cord blood is not donated, it is disposed of as medical waste – and it is truly a waste,” said Wilt.

Donating cord blood has such significance because finding a match can be very difficult. “About 70 percent of people in need are not able to find a match from their family,” Wilt said. “More cord blood donations means a greater chance that someone in need will find a match.”

For Babcock, making the donation was more than a fulfilling gesture. “It’s not a big sacrifice, and it changes your life just knowing that you could save an adult or child who is fighting a deadly disease.”

Cord Blood 1For more information about cord blood donations, contact Kristen Wilt at (520) 324-6210 or visit the Save the Cord Foundation website.

Quick action on a smoking pump leads to worldwide recall, FDA appreciation

On June 2, the screen went blank and smoke billowed out of the back of an intra-aortic balloon pump that was helping a patient’s heart beat after a procedure in TMC’s Cardiac Cath Lab. By June 6, Marquet Datascope Corp. issued a worldwide recall of its device.

As a result of its proactive response, TMC received a certificate for “Outstanding Contribution in Promoting Patient Safety With Medical Devices” from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.

A few months earlier, the manufacturer had issued a voluntary field correction, but with the smoldering device reported from TMC, the FDA determined that the action needed was a Class I recall, the most serious, used for “a situation in which there is a reasonable probability that the use of or exposure to a violative product will cause serious adverse health consequences or death.”

And while our patient experienced no harm as a result, the manufacturer said in its recall that “This device failure may result in unanticipated interruption of counterpulsation therapy.”

Gerri O’Neill, RN, patient safety nurse in the Quality department, reported the event to the FDA. She explained that she investigates every event involving supplies or equipment that could have caused harm and reports them to the FDA.

“I investigate the incident, sequester the equipment and then, if warranted, report it to the FDA,” O’Neill said. She estimates that, on average, she receives a report a day. Examples include guide wires breaking off, warming blankets not warming or a stent that turns out to be defective.

This was the first report in recent memory that resulted in such high-level and immediate action by the FDA, which has the online reporting tool, MedWatch, to allow for timely reporting on safety issues and serious adverse events.

“This past year, we’ve really stepped up our efforts to educate staff so that we can track and report each and every incident that could cause harm,” said Kathy Tanner, director of Quality “Our culture is such that everyone has a role to play, and we all can be alert and responsive in addressing patient safety issues.”

The balloon pump helps a patient by increasing the amount of oxygen to the heart, while decreasing the workload on the heart. It can be used from a couple hours to several days during or after a heart attack, coronary bypass surgery or angiolplasty to open a blocked artery.

Those caring for the patient in the intensive care unit, Becky Higgins, R.N., and Julie Ellis, A.N.P., responded quickly to the event. They unplugged the pump from the wall outlet, placed the machine on stand-by and called a fire alarm. A new machine was ordered and the patient was connected, but not before the patient’s blood pressure had dropped after being off the pump for several minutes.

“The report I entered was based on Becky’s Quality Alert,” said O’Neill, talking about TMC’s electronic tracking device, “which in turn contributed to a significant patient safety action!”


Tucson Medical Center | 5301 E. Grant Road | Tucson, Arizona 85712 | (520) 327-5461