Here’s a riddle for you: what do you think was the best gift I ever gave?
did not cost me a cent
was given to a complete stranger
was a gift from both me and my daughter
I can never give again, but my daughter might be able to
The answer: umbilical cord blood.
My daughter recently turned 13. Thinking back on her birth reminds me of my decision to donate her cord blood. Back in 1998, cord blood donation was unusual. I learned about it from a friend whose little boy had cancer. He was treated with chemotherapy and was well for a while but the leukemia came back. His prognosis was not good, and doctors tried what was then an experimental treatment with cord blood. He recovered and is now enrolled at UCLA. He is an aspiring filmmaker.
A couple years after my friend told me about her son’s cord blood treatment, I got pregnant with Shea. I researched how to donate cord blood, found a place to accept the donation, and told my doctor how to do it. Now I feel a connection with all other mothers who made a similar decision. I know that together, we helped a doctor someplace searching for cord blood to match a patient in need. For 10 years I worked in PR at a medical school, and I got to know a lot of doctors and medical students. Donating cord blood helps doctors and patients in a way that no one else can, not even big drug companies or brilliant scientists. Cord blood, like bone marrow, is rich in stem cells. Cord blood even has unique qualities that can make it preferable over bone marrow for some patients. Researchers are still studying cord blood to learn about why it is so special and how it may help in other ways.
Donating umbilical cord is so easy–it is collected after the cord is cut so you do not even feel it! But because banking and storing cord blood is expensive, not that many places accept it. If you are pregnant or know someone who is, please read my hubpage on donating umbilical cord blood. It will answer your questions and help you make a decision.