One of the most valuable resources for treating patients with life-threatening blood cancers – the umbilical cord – is typically discarded after the birth of the baby unless the mother elects to donate it. Rather than let this precious resource go to waste, Piedmont Atlanta Hospital is offering free cord blood donation services to expectant mothers. “The umbilical cord is the cord that attaches the mom to the baby when she is pregnant,” says Philidah Seda, RN. “It is very special because it contains umbilical cord blood. It is rich in stem cells, which are the basis of the formation of tissue and organs.”
How cord blood donation makes a difference
“The majority of patients benefitting from cord blood donation are leukemia patients,” says Anne Pierce, RNC, cord blood coordinator at Piedmont Atlanta. “Usually they are very ill and some of them have been told, ‘This is it.’”
Cord blood has the power to save the lives of patients who are literally on their deathbeds. “We’ve had patients picking out their funeral clothes, then they got a stem cell transplant from cord blood and they’re still with us years later,” says Pierce.
The donation process
Piedmont partners with the Cleveland Cord Blood Center, which collects, stores and distributes high-quality cord blood units for clinical transplantation and medical research.
Families who decide to donate cord blood typically have a discussion with their physician before donating. When they arrive at the hospital for delivery, they are required to sign consent forms. Donation itself is a quick process, does not affect delivery and is painless for both the mother and the baby.
Piedmont processes and stores the blood, then ships it to the CCBC in Ohio. “Right now, there are about 170 people in Georgia alone who are waiting for a match,” says Seda. “Cord blood can be used to treat the diseases those individuals may have.”
Pierce would like mothers to know that cord blood donation is free, will not affect their care or their baby’s care, and will not interfere with important mother-baby bonding time. “It’s going to help someone else,” she says. “In essence, they can give life twice.” “I think it’s a great idea,” says Jordan Sneed, a patient at Piedmont. “If it can help somebody, what a blessing. It seems like such a no-brainer.” For more information on cord blood donation, visit BeTheMatch.org/cord.