As an expectant parent, perhaps you’ve heard about preserving your newborn’s umbilical cord blood, and educated yourself on the pros and cons of both private banking and public donation.  If you’ve decided to privately bank, you select a bank, and start working directly with that company’s representative. If you’ve decided that public donation is the way to go, it’s easy to do so if you’re delivering at TMC. TMC is proud to be the only hospital in Southern Arizona that’s part of the Arizona Public Cord Blood Program, administered by the Arizona Biomedical Research Commission.

Donated umbilical cord blood is available on the Be The Match registry, which helps those with life-threatening diseases find potential stem cell matches for transplant. Noah Swanson is an Arizona boy whose young life was saved by a cord blood transplant. His mom calls cord blood donation “the best gift a mother could give another mother.”

Donating your baby’s cord blood as part of this program is free and does not require you to do anything ahead of time. It’s best to discuss cord blood donation with your health care provider. If you haven’t decided before you arrive at TMC in labor, you still have time to make that decision. All you have to do is tell your Labor & Delivery nurse that you want to participate in the program, and our dedicated cord blood team will take care of the rest.

cordbloodkristenWiltTMC’s Cord Blood Team: Kristen Wilt – TMC’s Cord Blood Coordinator
Kirsten has been a labor and delivery nurse for 20 years, including the last seven years here at TMC. She now oversees the program as TMC’s cord blood coordinator. “I’m so excited to be a part of this amazing program. As a labor nurse, I’ve been well aware of the powerful, life-saving benefits of cord blood stem cells for many years now. It’s been so difficult to watch the potential to save a life just go into the garbage, day after day! This is such an easy way for expectant moms to give back. Can you imagine how special it would be to one day tell your child that they saved a life on the day that they were born? I wish that I had had that opportunity.”

Remember, to participate in this program, you must be at least 18 years old, at least 36 weeks along in your pregnancy, and be pregnant with only one baby. Once you tell your L&D nurse that you want to donate this precious life-saving resource, one of the consenters will come visit you in your room. They’ll help educate you and answer any questions you may have. Collecting the baby’s cord blood does not change your labor or delivery, and it does not hurt the mom or the baby. “Typically, as soon as we educate parents about publically donating their baby’s cord blood, they’re on board with it. Sometimes families instantly say, ‘I don’t want to do that,’ but if they allow us to explain it, their reaction is, ‘Oh – that’s not what I thought it was.’ And then they decide to participate,” said Wilt.

The consenter will also go over any items that may exclude you from participating in the program. It’s similar to the questions that are asked of you when you give blood. Since cord blood is considered a blood product by the FDA, and it may be transplanted into a very sick person, you can understand why every precaution must be made to ensure the cord blood is free from disease and contamination.

Ali BakerTMC Cord Blood Team: Ali Baker – Cord Blood Consenter
Ali Baker was a medical assistant at a pediatrician’s office before coming to TMC as a cord blood consenter. “I’m thrilled to be a part of this program at TMC.  It’s exciting to be able to give mothers the opportunity to give back at a time when they are receiving one of life’s greatest gifts.  I love to see the look on an expectant mom’s face when I tell her that one day, she will be able to tell her son or daughter that just by being born, they potentially saved someone’s life.  If they are able to do so, I would hope that every expectant mother would consider donating. Why not do something incredible for someone else rather than have this precious resource wasted?”

After the baby is delivered, your provider clamps the umbilical cord, sterilizes a small patch where the collection will happen, and then collects the blood. They will try to get as much blood as they can, but remember – since the cord has already been clamped, the collection does not impact the baby in any way. Then, mom delivers the placenta. The entire collection process takes just a few minutes, and since it happens between when the baby and the placenta come out, it does not interfere with the birthing process. How the baby is delivered does not make a difference for this donation program. Moms who have vaginal births and those who undergo cesarean sections can donate.

Adrianna Gardner (1)TMC’s Cord Blood Team: Adrianna Gardner – Cord Blood Consenter
Adrianna Gardner worked as a phlebotomist with the American Red Cross before becoming a cord blood consenter at TMC. “This program is an extraordinary way to help others by giving back, in the form of saving a life. This job gives me the opportunity to stress the importance of a process that is being used to help others, as well as share the stories that have become a part of this wonderful program. Expectant mothers shouldn’t feel obligated to participate, but oftentimes they are excited to learn that they now have this option. I am extremely proud of the work going on in this hospital and am honored to be a part of this program at TMC.”

The consenter then takes the blood into a special room inside TMC’s L&D area where the collection is weighed, labeled and put into a container that keeps it the proper temperature. Then a courier takes it to Tucson International Airport to be flown to the cord blood bank where it will be processed and stored. Currently there is a small window when the cord blood bank is unavailable to process. We cannot accept donations on Saturday.

TMC has a consenter on site at TMC from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m., Sunday through Friday. If a mother has given consent, but hasn’t delivered by 7 p.m., there is a chance her baby’s blood won’t be collected. TMC is exploring the possibility of training night nurses to consent and collect cord blood as part of this program. Since publically donated cord blood is regulated by the FDA, anyone who handles the blood must be specially trained.

Donating your baby’s cord blood as part of this program is free, safe and confidential. In the event a TMC baby’s blood is selected for transplant, TMC will receive notification with very limited information on it, including where the cord blood was shipped and the name of the disease it was used to treat.

In the few years this program has existed at three Phoenix area hospitals, 14 cords have been selected for transplant, which means 14 lives were saved because of this program. We can’t wait for word that a TMC baby saved a life!

For more information about the program, please click here, or contact Kristen Wilt at (520) 324-6210 or Kristen.Wilt@tmcaz.com.

To learn more about the importance of cord blood donation, visit SavetheCordFoundation.org.