Umbilical Cord - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

Wednesday, February 8, 2006

Umbilical Cord

You may not understand the science behind stem cells or even the controversy surrounding stem cell research, but stem cells ARE saving lives and it is a potential life saving practice that any new parent can provide.

Joe Yakimow: "I would have been dead. I would have been dead. Beat leukemia thanks to a baby girl. I received my stem cell transplant from a baby girls umbilical cord blood"

That baby, a stranger. Thousands of babies may also save lives.

Baby Canyon entered the world as a big contributor. Minutes after his birth his doctor collected blood from the part of the umbilical cord that is typically thrown out.

Dr. Jeffrey Litt/OBGYN: "The cord blood always got discarded, now we have something good to do with it. Save lives."

Not just the life of the baby who donates it but other family members as well.

Pam Rauch /Canyon's Mom: "And that's exactly what added to our desire to do it, not just for our newest but for our other son, parents, our whole family."

The cord blood contains stem cells that can be used in transplants for dozens of serious illnesses including sickle cell anemia and leukemia. In Joe's Yakimow's case the cord blood was a match, even though the donor is not related. It's easier to match using cord blood than bone marrow. The best part for baby? She doesn't feel a thing. The blood is packaged and sent off to a cord blood facility that keeps it in deep freeze until it's needed.

Parents who decide to do this have two choices: donate the cord blood to a public storage facility, there is no charge but it will be available to anyone who needs it; the other option: a private facility where the family has the only access to it.

But private facilities can be pricey. Up to $2,000 dollars up front, then an annual maintenance fee.

Pam and her husband Ted paid for the extra security.

Pam Rauch /Canyon's Mom: "I hope it's the biggest waste of money but if we ever need it we will be grateful we had the opportunity."

To Canyon this is all very boring. To Joe: a miracle.

Joe Yakimow: "I believe the mother who gave birth to the daughter in return gave me birth too."

And the science of using cord blood to cure diseases gives birth to new hope for the thousands on donor waiting lists.

Public cord blood facilities are not yet widely available but it looks like that is changing. Congress is considering a unified national registry. Each year 9,000 Americans, one third of whom are children, die waiting for a transplant because there are no known matches.

If you're having a baby your doctor can explain your options.

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