YOU CAN BANK ON IT
TWO WOMEN MAKE IT THEIR MISSION TO MAKE
SAVING YOUR BABY’S
Cord blood, the blood left in the umbilical cord and placenta post-childbirth, is currently being used to
treat more than 70 diseases and counting, yet only a small percentage of the 4 million babies born
annually in the United States have their cord blood banked. Cord blood is a rich source of stem cells,
and because it doesn’t in any way harm the baby, the mother or interfere with the birthing process,
it’s backed by groups ranging from the American Academy of Pediatrics to lawmakers to religious institutions.
So why is 97 percent of cord blood being tossed as medical waste?
This question weighed heavily on the minds of Charis Ober and Anne Sarabia, both career biotech and pharmaceutical industry executives who, while on a tour of a local cord blood bank, met two children who had received a lifesaving cord blood transplant, curing one of leukemia and the other of sickle-cell anemia. After witnessing firsthand what harvested cord blood can do, Ober and Sarabia made it their mission to empower pregnant women and the general public with the accurate information they need to make educated decisions on saving cord blood—and thus Save the Cord Foundation was born.
“The vision of Save the Cord Foundation is a world where cord blood is seen as a valuable, lifesaving medical resource. Cord blood stem cells are revolutionizing the practice of medicine. Medical researchers have just scratched the surface of the potential lifesaving medical discoveries involving cord blood,” adds Ober, who notes that it’s being used to treat diseases ranging from lymphoma to Hodgkin’s disease and retinoblastoma, among 70 other life-threatening illnesses. Researchers are currently exploring the use of cord blood to cure diabetes, heart disease, cerebral palsy, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease and have made great strides in the research of regenerating damaged tissues and organs.
“Save the Cord Foundation is working to make the collection of cord blood a standard of care in hospitals throughout the nation and to make public cord blood banks a national priority,” says Ober. She adds that she and her partner also want the foundation to be a clearinghouse of information for hospitals and other organizations that are looking to start a cord blood program of their own. Currently, the foundation is in the process of initiating a pilot program with a local Arizona hospital that will provide an on-site health educator dedicated to educating expectant mothers about cord blood and their options for donation or private banking. The foundation plans to take its program nationwide as well as push for legislatures in all 50 states to mandate the timely collection of cord blood and make public cord blood banks accessible to all.
When asked what she wanted TFG readers to take away from her message, Ober simply said: “Your support will save lives.”
Here, Ober gives you the need-to-know facts on cord blood banking:
Public vs. Private Banking
Public cord blood banks collect donated cord blood to be used for life-saving medical research or to be used in the treatment of a compatible patient in need of stem cells. There are no fees involved with donation.
Private cord blood banks charge fees to collect and store cord blood, allowing you to preserve your child’s cord blood so that if needed, it can be used by your child or family. The costs for private banking involve a one-time collection fee and ongoing annual storage fees. Collection fees generally run from $1,200 to $1,500, and storage fees run from $150 to $300 per year. Many banks offer incentives or specials. Also, some physicians may impose an additional fee for the collection process. Free or discounted banking is available for families in need.
Choosing the Right Bank
All operating information concerning the business should be available in the information/enrollment packet or online at the business’ website. Check the Better Business Bureau online for any reported problems or complaints from customers. Any reputable facility will want to share its business record and customer approval information with you; this includes a guided tour of their facility if location and time permit.
Make sure the company you select to bank your precious cord blood is financially stable. You don’t want to find out that the company you’ve picked may someday go out of business. All financial and annual reports should be made available to you. Check to see that the business is frequently audited and has shown a positive, consistent record of financial stability.
All reputable facilities should be accredited by the AABB (formerly known as the American Association of Blood Banks). This means that the bank has had its laboratory and administrative procedures reviewed, inspected and validated and was found to be in compliance with the guidelines for the specialized processing of stem cells set by the AABB. If the facility only has general accreditation, it should be considered unacceptable.
Ask for the specific information on the collection procedure for the cord blood at the time of delivery. There are two ways cord blood is collected — blood bag gravity and syringe collection. Blood bag gravity collection may be easier for the physician/delivery staff to handle, but it may have some drawbacks and prevent or limit a full collection. Occasionally a plug or piece of tissue from the syringe may cause a blockage, preventing a full collection. The syringe collection is thought to be more reliable and usually provides an increased volume of cord blood for collection. Some facilities provide both options of collection. The company you select to bank your baby’s cord blood should have on file all data showing their successful collection and storage rates. Also ask for the number of transplants that have taken place with the stem cell samples they have collected. With only one opportunity to collect this precious resource, you must insist on a reliable company with an excellent track record.
The fewer hands and locations your cord blood sample has to go through to be tested, processed and stored, the less likely there will be mistakes, confusion and accidents.
All instructions should be easy to read. Many companies accompany their collection kit with an educational video demonstrating the collection procedure. Also check to see that a 24/7 cord blood educator or support staff member is available in the event there are any questions or procedural issues that need to be answered or addressed.
The company you select should have support staff or a cord blood educator available 24/7 in the event you have additional questions before, during or after the delivery of your baby.
It’s mandatory that the company you select has an efficient, reliable courier or delivery service that provides timely return of your cord blood sample for testing, processing and storage.
Many private banks offer flexible payment plans and financial options that could make privately banking your baby’s cord blood affordable for you. Request that a completely printed explanation be sent to you of all expected charges for your cord blood banking
What can you do to help?
||Make a financial donation. “Your support will help us educate thousands of expectant mothers, doctors and policy makers throughout the United States,” Ober says.
||Donate or privately bank your child’s cord blood. “Only you have the power to ensure that your child’s cord blood does not go to waste,” she adds.
||Spread the word. Ober pleads: “Help us empower every woman throughout America by educating your friends, family and colleagues about the importance of cord blood preservation.”
For more information, go to www.savethecordfoundation.org
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