New mothers give life saving gift

April 20, 2009 11:19:26 AM PDT
Babies saving lives? It's true. Cancer patients often need a bone marrow transplant to rebuild their immune system after intensive chemotherapy. But a study has found blood from a baby's umbilical cord actually saves more lives.University of Minnesota researchers say the survival rate for children with leukemia was 20 percent higher if they got cord blood transplants.

When Bethany Hardcastle gave birth to a healthy baby girl, she did something equally life giving, she donated the blood from her baby's umbilical cord.

"They would throw that cord away and dispose of it and if that can help save someone's life," she said.

Shaytrice Young made the same decision.

"I figured instead of throwing it out, donate it," said Young.

Umbilical cord blood is rich in stem cells that can save the lives of cancer patients and others with lethal illnesses.

"The gift that was given to us if it can help out and save somebody else, it seemed like a really good idea," said Bethany's husband, Rob Hardcastle.

At St. Luke's after the baby is born, the doctor draws the remaining blood from the umbilical cord. It's tested, stored in the Texas Cord Blood Bank, which is a public bank, and listed on the national marrow donor registry.

"I've had so many family members to die of leukemia," said Donna Richardson with the Texas Cord Blood Bank. "I've had five of them very close to me, so I am a very big advocate."

Private banks store cord blood just for your family, if you pay for it.

"If I had the option of a public bank I would go public at the time since it wasn't available we went with a private blood bank and it was relatively expensive," said Dr. McKee.

Public banks do not charge donors.

The Texas Cord Blood Bank has about 4,000 units stored since it opened in 2005 but it would like to have four times that many.

"It didn't take that long at all, it took only a couple of seconds," said cord blood donor Teshen Bradford. "I didn't even notice."

"There was just no question why not do it why not help out," said Rob Hardcastle.

The National Marrow Donor Program says some 70 people a month receive life-saving cord blood transplants. To learn more about donating, you can go to www.marrowdonor.org.

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Christi Myers is ABC13's Healthcheck reporter

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