About a month before my baby was due, my obstetrician asked me, "So, have you thought about what you want to do with the cord blood?"
Without hesitation, I said I wanted to donate it to the Cord Blood Bank at MD Anderson. She scribbled a note on my chart and we went on with the appointment.
Because I work at MD Anderson, I'm aware of the cord blood donation program. But if you've never heard about it, it's easy to miss.
Cord blood remains in the placenta and umbilical cord after a baby is born. It's a source of stem cells that can be used as an alternative to bone marrow to treat patients with many diseases, including cancer.
Still, no one ever asked me to donate my baby's cord blood.
When you're pregnant and you sign up for any online service, or visit any pregnancy website, you're bombarded with ads for expensive cord blood banking services. This is generally your introduction to the idea that you should consider doing anything at all with umbilical cord blood.
Cord blood donation is rarely brought up. I found just one mention of it on the back of a brochure I got from the hospital.
The easiest donation ever
I went into the hospital the morning of my scheduled C-section and got settled into the pre-op room.
As soon as they were done with my vitals and IV, a very sweet MD Anderson Cord Blood Bank representative stepped in to explain the process and get my signature on a few forms. It took about five minutes. The biggest challenge was signing the papers with the IV in my hand.
The delivery went very smoothly, and I gave birth to a beautiful daughter. We named her Grace.
I was totally unaware of anything going on in the delivery room after her birth. My focus was on the beautiful crying baby in my arms. Later, my fiancée told me that the woman from MD Anderson was in the room, and he saw her collect the piece of cord and "some big brown gross-looking thing."
I explained that it was the placenta. During the form-signing process, she asked if I'd like to donate that as well, since otherwise they just throw it away. Apparently, placental tissue can be used in investigational treatments that may promote rapid healing of wound tissue.
How to donate
I can't imagine why they throw away so many of these life-saving cells, when it's so easy to donate them. If you're pregnant and in Houston, consider donating to MD Anderson's Cord Blood Bank. It has partnerships with:
The Woman's Hospital of Texas
Ben Taub General Hospital
Memorial Hermann Southwest
St. Joseph Medical Center
If you're delivering at another hospital, you can call the Cord Blood Bank at 713-563-8000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to set up the donation.
If you're not in Houston, you can learn more about cord blood donation options through BeTheMatch.org. Your doctor may also have information about your local options, so don't forget to bring it up at your next appointment.
It was easy, and I'm proud to say my little Grace started her life by saving a life.