Moms and babies saving lives one cord blood donation at a time


As an expectant parent, perhaps you’ve heard about preserving your newborn’s umbilical cord blood, and educated yourself on the pros and cons of both private banking and public donation. If you’ve decided to privately bank, you select a bank, and start working directly with that company’s representative. If you’ve decided that public donation is the way to go, it’s easy to do so if you’re delivering at TMC for Women. Tucson Medical Center is proud to be the only hospital in Southern Arizona that’s part of the Arizona Public Cord Blood Program, administered by the Arizona Biomedical Research Commission.

Donated umbilical cord blood is available on the Be The Match registry, which helps those with life-threatening diseases find potential stem cell matches for transplant.

Donating your baby’s cord blood as part of this program is free

Donating does not require you to do anything ahead of time. It’s best to discuss cord blood donation with your health care provider. If you haven’t decided before you arrive at TMC for Women in labor, you still have time to make that decision. All you have to do is tell your labor & delivery nurse that you want to participate in the program, and our dedicated cord blood team will take care of the rest.

TMC for Women’s Cord Blood Coordinator: Kristen Wilt

Kristen has been a labor and delivery nurse for 24 years, including the last eleven years here at TMC for Women and oversees the program as TMC for Women’s cord blood coordinator. “I’m so excited to be a part of this amazing program. As a labor nurse, I’ve been well aware of the powerful, life-saving benefits of cord blood stem cells for many years now. It’s been so difficult to watch the potential to save a life just go into the garbage, day after day! This is such an easy way for expectant moms to give back. Can you imagine how special it would be to one day tell your child that they saved a life on the day that they were born? I wish that I had had that opportunity.”

How does it work?

Once you tell your labor and delivery nurse that you want to donate this precious life-saving resource, one of the consenters will come visit you in your room. They’ll help educate you and answer any questions you may have.

Collecting the baby’s cord blood does not change your labor or delivery, and it does not hurt the mom or the baby. “Typically, as soon as we educate parents about publicly donating their baby’s cord blood, they’re on board with it. Sometimes families instantly say, ‘I don’t want to do that,’ but if they allow us to explain it, their reaction is, ‘Oh – that’s not what I thought it was.’ And then they decide to participate,” said Wilt.

Remember, to participate in this program, you must be at least 18 years old, at least 36 weeks along in your pregnancy, and be pregnant with only one baby.

The consenter will also go over any items that may exclude you from participating in the program. It’s similar to the questions that are asked of you when you give blood. Since cord blood is considered a blood product by the FDA, and it may be transplanted into a very sick person, you can understand why every precaution must be made to ensure the cord blood is free from disease and contamination.

After the baby is delivered, your provider clamps the umbilical cord, sterilizes a small patch where the collection will happen, and then collects the blood. They will try to get as much blood as they can, but remember – since the cord has already been clamped, the collection does not impact the baby in any way. Then, mom delivers the placenta. The entire collection process takes just a few minutes, and since it happens between when the baby and the placenta come out, it does not interfere with the birthing process. How the baby is delivered does not make a difference for this donation program.

Moms who have vaginal births and those who undergo cesarean sections can donate.

The consenter then takes the blood into a special room inside TMC for Women’s labor and delivery area where the collection is weighed, labeled and put into a container that keeps it at the proper temperature. Then a courier takes the donation to Tucson International Airport to be flown to the cord blood bank where it will be processed and stored.

Donating your baby’s cord blood as part of this program is free, safe and confidential. In the event a TMC baby’s blood is selected for transplant, TMC will receive notification with very limited information on it, including where the cord blood was shipped and the name of the disease it was used to treat.

In the few years the Arizona Public Cord Program has existed, 50 cords have been selected for transplant, which means 50 lives were saved because of this program.

For more information about the program, please click here, or contact Kristen Wilt at (520) 324-6210 or Kristen.Wilt@tmcaz.com.

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.


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