Donating your baby’s umbilical cord blood after birth can provide someone a second chance at life.
As Mother’s Day quickly approaches, countless families are preparing to honor the women that gave them the greatest gift a person can receive: life.
However, most people are not aware that the birth of a child can signify new life in more than one way. Birth can be a lifeline for thousands of people with diseases such as leukemia and lymphoma. They depend on the generosity of mothers who donate their babies’ cord blood to a public cord blood bank. This way, the cord blood can become a potentially life-saving treatment option for a patient. That’s because cord blood, like marrow, is rich in blood-forming cells that can be used to treat many life-threatening diseases.
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Prior to the birth of her daughter, Psalm, Jayna Guillermo of Makawao learned about cord blood’s potentially life-saving properties. For Jayna cord blood donation was one way she and her daughter could help other families in need.
“My mother taught me to share with others when you’re able. Our family knows what it’s like to experience a medical crisis and donating cord blood was the obvious thing to do,” Guillermo said. “Our beautiful baby girl was a huge blessing for our family, and by making this donation, I know she’ll be a blessing for others, too.”
There is no cost to donate to a public cord blood bank and it is completely safe for both mother and baby. Cord blood is collected immediately after a baby is born and does not interfere with labor or delivery in any way.
“Before delivery, I filled out some forms through Hawaii Cord Blood Bank. They kept in contact with me through my pregnancy, and when I delivered, my nurses knew I wanted to donate cord blood,” Guillermo said. “The process doesn’t take a long time and, best of all, it didn’t hurt me or Psalm.”
Donated cord blood suitable for transplant is listed on the Be The Match Registry®, operated by the National Marrow Donor Program® (NMDP), where it is made available to any patient in need of a transplant. The Be The Match Registry is the world’s largest registry of potential marrow donors and donated cord blood units. Since it began operations in 1987, the NMDP and Be The Match® has made more than 55,000 marrow and cord blood transplants possible.
More patients may find a suitable match outside of their families because cord blood tissue types do not need to match as closely as marrow for a successful transplant. And because publicly donated cord blood is stored and readily available, it is particularly useful for those patients who need a transplant performed quickly.
Despite its potential, most umbilical cord blood is discarded. More donations are needed, so more patients can get the transplant they need.
In the past five years, the number of cord blood transplants facilitated by the NMDP and Be The Match has increased dramatically, thanks in part to donors like Guillermo.
Locally, Hawaii Cord Blood Bank is in need of donated cord blood from babies whose parents are of diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds, because patients are more likely to match someone who shares their heritage. Of the nearly 185,000 total cord blood units listed on the Be The Match Registry, only 174 of those units are from Pacific Islanders. Overall, there are fewer numbers of diverse populations on the Be The Match Registry, making it difficult for minority patients to find a match.
Nothing else that offers so much hope comes with so little effort. In honor of this Mother’s Day, expecting moms are encouraged to give the gift of hope by choosing to donate their baby’s cord blood. For more information, contact Hawaii Cord Blood Bank at www.hcbb.org. A list of participating hospitals and additional information can be found at www.BeTheMatch.org/cord
Submitted by David Martinson For Be The Match