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In a Few Simple Steps, Newborn Babies Can Give the Gift of Life

Umbilical Cord Blood Stem Cells Offer Life Saving Treatment for Patients throughout the World
Suffering from Certain Cancers and Blood-related Diseases

Traverse City Mother Shares Her Gift in Celebration of Mother’s Day

A mother’s joy of holding her healthy newborn in her arms for the first time is one of the most amazing moments.  Now imagine this euphoria with an added bonus: the opportunity to pay this gift forward and save a life by donating the blood stem cells from the baby’s umbilical cord. Literally within the first few minutes of a newborn’s life, he or she can be making a difference for a stranger next door, or on the opposite side of the globe. 

The decision to donate umbilical cord blood does not interfere with birthing. According to Mary Burroughs, Supervisor of Michigan Blood’s Cord Blood Bank, “Collection is quick, simple, and free of charge to the patient. There is no risk or pain for either the mother or baby – and moms who deliver by C-section also can donate their cord blood.” 

Expectant mothers interested in donating their newborn’s umbilical cord blood stem cells should contact Michigan Blood (1-866-MIBLOOD or 616.233.8604) and request a collection kit be sent to them. Michigan Blood confirms each expectant mother’s donation intentions with her physician or midwife, and sends a courier to the hospital after delivery. The blood stem cells are tested, frozen and stored at Michigan Blood until a match is found and they can be used to save a life. Cords which are not donated are treated as bio waste and discarded.”

When it opened in 1999, the cord bank at Michigan Blood was  the state’s first public cord blood bank and today is one of only 20 such public banks in the country. Public cord blood banks collect, test, and store the blood stem cell from a newborn’s umbilical cord (not to be confused with embryonic stem cells). For people with certain life-threatening diseases like leukemia and lymphoma, a transplant of stem cells from cord blood or marrow may represent the best hope for survival. Cord blood stored at Michigan Blood is listed on the Be the Match® registry, a global resource for matching cord blood with unrelated patients who need blood stem cell transplants. 

To date, Michigan Blood has provided 133 cord blood stem cell transplants to patients throughout the world – as close as Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital and as far as New Zealand, covering five of the world’s 7 continents. Michigan Blood’s donor center for the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) has also provided over 600 blood stem cell (marrow) transplants from its registry of over 57,000 adult donors.

Carrie Smith of Traverse City is the mother of 3 young children, and she
elected to donate her children’s umbilical cords after reading a pamphlet in her doctor’s office. “I talked to my husband and we both agreed that of course we were going to donate knowing we had a chance to help someone in need and save a life.”  Carrie delivered her oldest child, Ella, on July 5, 2004, and in 2012, Ella’s stem cells were transplanted into a 58 year old man with leukemia. According to Carrie, “Ella was very excited to hear that she made a difference in someone’s life – especially since she had just arrived in the world only to turn around a give a miracle to someone else.”

Asked if Carrie would recommend cord donation to other expecting moms, she resoundingly said, “absolutely! The cord is treated as waste, when its stem cells carry life-saving opportunities. It is so easy – all joking aside, all you have to do is remember to take the collection kit with you to the hospital.”   

According to Dr. Lee Ann Weitekamp, Michigan Blood’s Vice President of Quality and Medical Services, “there are three main sources of blood cells for transplant.  Two sources are from adults, the bone marrow and peripheral blood. The third source is from cord blood obtained from the umbilical cord after the birth of a child. Cord blood contains fewer blood stem cells than the adult sources, but the cells present are able to reproduce more efficiently. The cord cells also are less fussy in terms of tissue type matching, which helps reduce a common problem in transplantation called graft vs. host disease. It allows more patients to use cord cells because the match doesn't need to be as close.”

Michigan Blood works with the following Michigan hospitals for donations:

  • Borgess Medical Center - Kalamazoo, MI
  • Bronson Methodist Hospital - Kalamazoo, MI
  • Covenant Medical Center Harrison - Saginaw, MI
  • Mercy General Health Partners-Hackley - Muskegon, MI
  • Holland Hospital - Holland, MI
  • Lakeland Hospital St. Joseph - St. Joseph, MI
  • Lakeland Hospital Niles - Niles, MI
  • Metro Health Hospital - Wyoming, MI
  • MidMichigan Medical Center - Midland, MI
  • Munson Medical Center - Traverse City, MI
  • North Ottawa Community Hospital - Grand Haven, MI
  • Saint Mary's Health Care - Grand Rapids, MI
  • Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital - Grand Rapids, MI
  • Spectrum Health Gerber Memorial Hospital - Fremont, MI
  • Spectrum Health Zeeland Community Hospital – Zeeland, MI

For additional information, call 616.233-8598 or click http://www.miblood.org/donating-cord-blood/.