As many of you may know, when I was pregnant with my eldest son, Hunter, I lost my beautiful mother, Suzanne (the day before finding out we were pregnant). Mum died very suddenly and unexpectedly from a blood clot that went to the heart and caused a heart attack. She was in the best health of her life and she was only 63 years old. It was a devastating shock and something I still struggle with everyday she isn’t here with us. During my pregnancy, I was grieving so I didn’t want to do the ‘usual’ exciting things you do when you are expecting, like having a baby shower, setting up the nursery or attending baby expos. But my sister in law knew how much I would normally love these things and something I would have done with my mum so she booked us a ticket and we went to a baby expo. I cried mostly throughout it because I wanted to enjoy it, but I desperately wanted my mum to enjoy it with me. We walked past the Cell Care Australia stand. I had never heard of storing cord blood or tissue. The sales assistant was friendly and gave me all the information and research they had conducted thus far. Initially I thought, it was too expensive but I continued to listen. As I was standing there listening, I had a sense of calmness come over me. I felt like Mum was there with me (something I have learnt to listen to over the years as her way of showing me her presence). I was unwell growing up and my parents spent a lot of money on doctors as no expense was ever spared for my health. I felt as if Mum was standing there, saying I think this is a really good option and something to consider. I went home and spoke to my husband and my father. We did our research and re-read all the information provided to us. After considering all the health issues I had been through and never knowing what was wrong (until later in life when I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease – no longer have it now), my father said, they would have done anything to have had my cord blood stored. After losing Mum so suddenly, I realised that health is something that is so important and I think often we can take it for granted. I tried to put myself in my parent’s shoes, imagined what it would have been like to have a sick child, I thought, I definitely need to store my son’s cord blood. Hopefully we will never have to use it, that is the best case scenario but we will always have the option if he or his siblings needed it. It wasn’t something that we wanted to gamble with and in the long run, if it could potentially save their lives, it would be worth every cent. It can only be collected at birth. We all insure our cars and homes, this was a no brainer for us.
Whilst Cord blood at the moment doesn’t necessarily assist with the issues that I experienced or my mothers, it doesn’t mean that it couldn’t in the future. One of the biggest things I learnt whilst being sick was to look at research and look at the future. I was lucky to have a doctor that knew about Lyme and treated me for it. She said, “The way they look at Lyme now, is how doctor’s did centuries ago about washing hands between patients. Now it is common practice that a doctor wash their hands between patients to prevent bacteria being spread”.
Your baby’s stem cells are powerful, unique cells that are the building blocks of the body. They can only be collected at birth. Stem cells are powerful because they have the ability to create and regenerate the organs, blood, tissue and immune system that make up our bodies. They have the function of growth and healing throughout life. Stem cells can be found in places like bone marrow and fat tissue, but the younger, more flexible stem cells in the body come from a newborn’s umbilical cord blood and tissue.
Worldwide, cord blood has been used in over 40,000 transplants for over 80 life threatening conditions. In addition, clinical trials are underway for the following conditions:
Type 1 diabetes
Traumatic brain injury
Family cord blood banking means your child’s cord blood stem cells may also be used to treat compatible family members. For some conditions that are genetic in nature, an allogeneic or donor transplant is required, as the person’s own stem cells will have the underlying condition and therefore wouldn’t be used. In these cases it is beneficial to have a sibling’s cord blood stem cells available, as they are a better chance of matching, and often produce better outcomes then a matched unrelated donor. So essentially you are getting potential options for the child it is stored for if an autologous transplant is required, and also a potential use for sibling or allogeneic transplant in the case a sibling requires a donor.
The chance of an exact cord blood match from a sibling is 25%, and there is an additional 50% chance of a half match. Importantly as cord blood is less immunogenic (seen as foreign by the body), a perfect match may not be required.
I went into spontaneous labour with Hunter at 39 weeks and was induced with Archie at 39 weeks. As soon as I started my contractions, my husband called the Cell Care labour line. By the time we got to the hospital (with my Cell Care kit in hand) they had a collector there. The collector came in and introduced herself and reminded me they needed to take some blood. They offered to do it now or later. Both times I opted to do it straight away just in case there were any complications with labour. After that, they waited outside until I was ready to push, which is when she came back into the room. Both times I didn’t even notice she was there. Cord blood collection takes place immediately after the birth of the baby once the cord has been clamped and cut. The cord blood is collected into a sterile collection bag. The procedure is painless for both mother and baby, and takes around three minutes. The cord tissue is collected after the delivery of the placenta. They took their sample, and within 24 hours my kit was collected. We received a call a few weeks after having our baby saying it had been stored plus we were sent a letter of registration. It was very easy and completely unobtrusive. Your collector is a trained cell care collector, obstetrician or midwife.
It is a very easy process. A 4 step online process, which takes about 10 minutes to complete.
1. Choose cord blood or cord blood and tissue
2. Select your payment plan
3. Pay a deposit ($150 for cord blood or $250 for cord blood and tissue)
4. Complete medical questionnaire
A member of the team calls you within 24 hours to go over it with you. At 34 weeks a courier delivers your collection kit, which you store in a dry dark room. I also store my kit with my packed hospital bag.
We have decided to store our daughter’s cord tissue, which will be the focus of a second blog review. Tissue is very much a future looking application, however is showing great promise in both facilitating the use of cord blood therapies, as well as stand alone applications. If you have any questions that you would like me to address in the next blog regarding cord blood, tissue storage, family banking or any other information please comment below or send me an email, so I can address it.