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.

TMC baby provides life-saving stem cells to a child with leukemia through cord blood donation program

Somewhere in the Tucson area, there’s a 10-month-old baby who was born at Tucson Medical Center last spring and provided life-saving stem cells to a patient who had no other treatment options.

And somewhere in Colorado, that patient – a child who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia – received the transfusion he or she so desperately needed.

AZPCBP_2ccThe match was made possible because of the Arizona Public Cord Blood Program, which TMC joined in October 2014. The program also includes three Phoenix-area hospitals and gives expectant parents the option to donate their baby’s umbilical cord blood – which is rich in stem cells – if they’re not going to pay to have it privately banked and don’t want it to go to waste. Donated cord blood is listed on the Be The Match national registry.

Since the program’s inception in 2011, 30 life-saving matches have been made including this one – the first match for TMC.

Maya

Maya Adams

The baby was delivered by Maya Adams, a midwife with El Rio Community Health Center. “It gives me goose bumps to think how we have been able to give hope to that family in Colorado,” said Adams, who credits the donor family and TMC for the match. “I’m just happy to have helped make a difference.”

And for Adams, the news is bittersweet. Her father passed away from leukemia a year and a half ago after he ran out of treatment options.

“This family in Colorado is so blessed to have the opportunity to have a different outcome than my father had,” she said.

Nurse Erica Schroyer and cord blood consenter Ali Baker were also part of the collection.

Erica

Erica Schroyer

When Schroyer received word about the match, she was really moved. “Our nursing staff saves lives and changes lives for the better every day, and it is a blessing every time. With the cord blood donation program, we offer our patient families that incredible opportunity to save a life as well.”

Baker added, “I was so excited to learn that one of our cord blood units was used for transplant! It is so encouraging to know that the selfless generosity of this donor family combined with our efforts has made all the difference in the world to a leukemia patient and their family. The positive ripple effect our program creates is truly immeasurable, and I’m looking forward to more matches in 2016.”

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Ali Baker

According to Be The Match, cord blood is rich in stem cells and can often be used in place of bone marrow. A transplant replaces a patient’s unhealthy cells with healthy ones. Bone marrow requires a near perfect match – seven or eight out of eight markers. But cord blood only requires four out of six markers be matched. Also with cord blood, if a matching unit is identified, the patient can receive that blood in mere days. With bone marrow, it may take weeks or more as the donor is located and the preparation work is done. And finally, cord blood transplant recipients are less likely to get graft-versus-host disease after their transplant. The disease presents itself in the form of a rash all over the patient’s body.

“We are so appreciative to Maya and all of our providers who have helped make this program so successful, so quickly,” said Kristen Wilt, TMC cord blood coordinator. “As part of this program, we are asking providers to collect this blood out of the goodness of their hearts. While it only takes a few minutes to do, it does require extra effort and skill. This match is proof that investing in that little extra time after delivery can have a tremendous impact.“

The program is free for patients, and everything is kept confidential. Since a patient’s privacy is protected, no other details about the baby or the recipient will be made available.

The Save the Cord Foundation, a Tucson-based nonprofit, is proud to partner with the program and be the voice for unbiased cord blood education and awareness.

More information about the program can be found by clicking here.

Click here to see a new video about Dylan Praskins, an Arizona boy whose life was saved because of donated cord blood.

 


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