Thousands of children like Peter Bernard Storm today starts their life as big contributors - donators of cord blood which is being used to treat over 80 serious diseases including most prevalent types of leukemia. Your child could be one too.
One minute after his birth last month at Detroit’s St. John Hospital & Medical Center, Dr. Carl Buccellato collected the blood from Peter’s umbilical cord for a public cord blood registry at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit.
“It would be great if this could help someone else,” said Kathy Storm, 35, of Sterling Heights, Mich., as she held her healthy, 9-pound baby boy.
Unfortunately most hospitals discard cord blood after a baby’s birth, despite the fact that the blood contains life saving stem cells that can be used in transplants for as many as 80 serious medical problems. Those include the most prevalent types of leukemia, metabolic disorders such as Tay-Sachs disease, blood-related conditions such as sickle cell anemia and severe anemia problems.
“People literally are dying on the transplant list who could be cured with this,” said Dr. Brian Mason, the St. John obstetrician/gynecologist who approached the Storm family minutes before the birth to ask them to contribute Peter’s cord blood to a public registry.
Major changes are under way nationally that will make cord blood donations to public banks for potential transplant use much more likely.
Pending national legislation, the Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Act of 2005 would create a unified national registry and provide $10 million for collection for public cord blood banking, making it much easier for expecting parents to allow their newborns to be donors like Peter Storm. The legislation awaits action by the full Senate.
Each year, 9,000 Americans - one-third of them children - die waiting for a transplant because there are no matches in national registries, according to the National Bone Marrow Program’s Cord Blood Bank Network.
Families, of course, can store the cord blood of their newborns through private banks for their own use, but the option is costly — typically about $2,000, plus an annual storage fee. Private banks store the cord blood for the families use only, unless they decide to donate it later.
Once donated to a public bank, cord blood can be tapped for transplant by anyone in the world, as long as blood types match. Families contributing to public registries can’t be promised their baby’s blood will be reserved for them. But if no one claims the blood, donor families are eligible to receive it.
That’s exactly what happened to Allison Cisco, 12, now a seventh-grader in St. Clair Shores, Mich. Two weeks after her second birthday, in July 1995, Allison developed leukemia.
At the time, her mother, Sherry Cisco, a hairdresser, was seven months pregnant. She and her husband, Dan, a truck driver for Daimler Chrysler Corp., choose to donate the cord blood of their son, Kevin, when he was born that September.
Initially Allison’s cancer went into remission after 2 1/2 years of radiation and chemotherapy. In March 1999, Allison’s cancer recurred. Her only choice was a stem cell or bone marrow transplant.
Luckily for her, no one had claimed her brother’s cord blood during the four years it was frozen and stored at the Karmanos registry. He also was a perfect match and though small at birth, just 6 pounds, he had provided blood for a transplant.
It worked. Month after month, Allison’s health improved. She has been free of cancer since.
Think about how many Allison’s you could save by donating your child’s cord-blood.