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TMC babies providing life-saving stem cells via cord blood

Not so very long ago, two families welcomed babies into the world at Tucson Medical Center – and made an important decision. They chose to make a public donation of umbilical cord blood to give the gift of life and provide hope for others in need.

The donations of cord blood, which are rich in stem cells and used to rebuild immune systems, were matches for a child in Australia who was struggling with acute myelogenous leukemia – a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. The most recent match helped a child being treated at the University of Minnesota facing acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the most common type of childhood cancer.

Tucson Medical Center wants to thank everyone who makes the choice to provide life-saving cells so that others may have treatment options. The matches are made possible because of the Arizona Public Cord Blood Program, which TMC joined in October 2014. Those who do not intend to privately bank their baby’s umbilical cord blood have the opportunity to donate it to others. Donated cord blood is listed on the Be The Match national registry.

Since the program’s inception in 2011, 43 life-saving matches have been made including these donations– the second and third match for TMC.

“As we celebrate the ways we can make a difference in the world, we want to thank everyone whose generosity allows other children the opportunity to grow and thrive,” said Kristen Wilt, TMC cord blood coordinator. “That includes the families who provide the cord blood, as well as the providers whose expertise and commitment has such a tremendous impact on patients and families they will never meet.”

The procedure is painless, the program is free for patients, and everything is kept confidential.

The latest match was collected from baby born at TMC in May, 2016 by Dr. Jennifer Reinhart and Annie Reiners, RN.

For more information on cord blood donation, please visit the Tucson Medical Center website and these blog posts.

Arizona Public Cord Blood Program

TMC baby provides life-saving stem cells to a child with leukemia through cord blood donation program

Somewhere in the Tucson area, there’s a 10-month-old baby who was born at Tucson Medical Center last spring and provided life-saving stem cells to a patient who had no other treatment options.

And somewhere in Colorado, that patient – a child who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia – received the transfusion he or she so desperately needed.

AZPCBP_2ccThe match was made possible because of the Arizona Public Cord Blood Program, which TMC joined in October 2014. The program also includes three Phoenix-area hospitals and gives expectant parents the option to donate their baby’s umbilical cord blood – which is rich in stem cells – if they’re not going to pay to have it privately banked and don’t want it to go to waste. Donated cord blood is listed on the Be The Match national registry.

Since the program’s inception in 2011, 30 life-saving matches have been made including this one – the first match for TMC.


Maya Adams

The baby was delivered by Maya Adams, a midwife with El Rio Community Health Center. “It gives me goose bumps to think how we have been able to give hope to that family in Colorado,” said Adams, who credits the donor family and TMC for the match. “I’m just happy to have helped make a difference.”

And for Adams, the news is bittersweet. Her father passed away from leukemia a year and a half ago after he ran out of treatment options.

“This family in Colorado is so blessed to have the opportunity to have a different outcome than my father had,” she said.

Nurse Erica Schroyer and cord blood consenter Ali Baker were also part of the collection.


Erica Schroyer

When Schroyer received word about the match, she was really moved. “Our nursing staff saves lives and changes lives for the better every day, and it is a blessing every time. With the cord blood donation program, we offer our patient families that incredible opportunity to save a life as well.”

Baker added, “I was so excited to learn that one of our cord blood units was used for transplant! It is so encouraging to know that the selfless generosity of this donor family combined with our efforts has made all the difference in the world to a leukemia patient and their family. The positive ripple effect our program creates is truly immeasurable, and I’m looking forward to more matches in 2016.”


Ali Baker

According to Be The Match, cord blood is rich in stem cells and can often be used in place of bone marrow. A transplant replaces a patient’s unhealthy cells with healthy ones. Bone marrow requires a near perfect match – seven or eight out of eight markers. But cord blood only requires four out of six markers be matched. Also with cord blood, if a matching unit is identified, the patient can receive that blood in mere days. With bone marrow, it may take weeks or more as the donor is located and the preparation work is done. And finally, cord blood transplant recipients are less likely to get graft-versus-host disease after their transplant. The disease presents itself in the form of a rash all over the patient’s body.

“We are so appreciative to Maya and all of our providers who have helped make this program so successful, so quickly,” said Kristen Wilt, TMC cord blood coordinator. “As part of this program, we are asking providers to collect this blood out of the goodness of their hearts. While it only takes a few minutes to do, it does require extra effort and skill. This match is proof that investing in that little extra time after delivery can have a tremendous impact.“

The program is free for patients, and everything is kept confidential. Since a patient’s privacy is protected, no other details about the baby or the recipient will be made available.

The Save the Cord Foundation, a Tucson-based nonprofit, is proud to partner with the program and be the voice for unbiased cord blood education and awareness.

More information about the program can be found by clicking here.

Click here to see a new video about Dylan Praskins, an Arizona boy whose life was saved because of donated cord blood.

Baby Hailey helps us reach 1000 units of publicly donated umbilical cord blood!

1000 cord blood unitTMC and the Save the Cord Foundation are proud to announce that TMC for Women has collected the 1,000th unit of umbilical cord blood as part of the Arizona Public Cord Blood Program. TMC is one of four hospitals in Arizona, and the only hospital in Southern Arizona, to give expectant parents the option to donate their baby’s umbilical cord blood as part of this program.

AZPCBP_2ccSince the program’s inception, 28 cord blood units have been selected for patients in need of a life-saving stem cell transplant.

Donated cord blood that meets a certain set of criteria will be included on the Be The Match national registry where it could save the life of someone with a life-threatening disease who needs a stem cell transplant.

Noncontroversial umbilical cord blood is a precious resource to a patient in need of a life-saving stem cell transplant. This blood is rich in stem cells, which can renew themselves and grow into mature blood cells. It’s been proven to cure and treat as many as 80 diseases, and can be used for transplantation for adult and pediatric patients with leukemia, lymphoma and other life-threatening blood diseases. More than 22,000 patients around the world have received transplants from donations to public cord blood banks.

Donating cord blood does not hurt the mother or the baby. It does not change a woman’s labor or delivery, and donation to a public bank is free. TMC started offering this program Oct. 1, 2014.

cord blood donation

Amy Vasquez and Chris Colbert with baby Hailey

“We are thrilled at the success of our program in its first year,” said Kristen Wilt, TMC cord blood coordinator. “We feel so fortunate to have the support of Tucson’s nonprofit community hospital, two dedicated consenters who are on the front line of this program, and wonderful physicians who champion this effort. They take the time to collect this blood because they believe in our mission and know it’s better than having it discarded as medical waste.”The 1,000th unit of cord blood was collected from Hailey Vasquez who was born at TMC for Women on November 5th to parents Amy Vasquez and Chris Colbert. They said when they were approached by one of TMC’s cord blood consenters, their decision to participate in the program was easy. “I’m amazed that something that is so quick, easy and safe to collect may be so beneficial to somebody else,” said Colbert. “I’m in awe that my beautiful, healthy daughter who just came into the world may save someone’s life someday, just by being born.”

The Save the Cord Foundation, a Tucson-based nonprofit, is proud to partner with the program and be the voice for unbiased cord blood education and awareness.

“Establishing this program at TMC is a dream come true,” said Charis Ober, founder of the Save the Cord Foundation. “On the Be The Match registry, there is a significant shortage of blood from Hispanic, black, mixed ethnicity and Native Americans. The demographic TMC serves, and the number of babies delivered there – more than 5,500 in 2014 – has the potential to make a significant positive impact on the national registry, essentially giving more people a better chance at finding a match. This program is our passion, and we couldn’t ask for a better hospital partner.”

TMC is one of four Arizona hospitals supported by the Arizona Department of Health Services and the Arizona Public Cord Blood Program.

More information about the program can be found at

19 lives saved, and counting: Cord Blood Awareness Month draws attention to benefits of Arizona Public Cord Blood Program

proclamation cord blood awareness month ArizonaArizona Governor Doug Ducey has signed a proclamation making the month of July Cord Blood Awareness Month. The proclamation generates attention about stem-cell-rich umbilical cord blood and how the Arizona Public Cord Blood Program, which Tucson Medical Center is a part of, is saving lives.

Each year, thousands of patients in the United States are diagnosed with a blood cancer or other life-threatening disease. Umbilical cord blood is a prime source of blood stem cells and can be a precious resource to a patient in need of a stem-cell transplant, since the cells can renew themselves and grow into mature blood cells. The advancement has proven to cure and treat as many as 80 diseases. The blood can be collected, stored and made available for transplant to children and adults with life-threatening diseases such as leukemia or lymphoma.

TMC is one of four hospitals in the state, and the only hospital in Southern Arizona, to offer this option to expectant parents as part of this program. The program also partners with the Tucson-based, nonprofit Save the Cord Foundation, which provides education. The Arizona Public Cord Blood Program is funded by the Arizona Biomedical Research Commission. There is no cost to families who choose to publicly donate their baby’s cord blood through this program.

“This proclamation highlights a special program that provides a lifeline to patients in need,” the governor said. “The generous gift of cord blood increases the odds of survival for cancer patients and gives researchers a chance to find a cure for genetic disease.”

Collecting the blood does not hurt the mother or the baby or change a woman’s labor or delivery. “This is a way for parents to give the gift of health to others in need,” said TMC Cord Blood Coordinator Kristen Wilt. “It’s one of the easiest ways to make a positive impact on the lives of others.”

One Arizona mom calls the decision to publicly donate a baby’s cord blood, “The best gift a mother can give another mother.”

Since the program’s inception in 2011, 19 cords have been selected for transplant in Arizona, meaning 19 lives have been saved. Since TMC for Women signed on to the program in October 2014, roughly 600 units of cord blood have been collected.

For more information about how to donate your newborn’s cord blood at TMC, please click here.

“Public banking is about giving and living in hope.” Why an expectant mom is especially thrilled about TMC’s new cord blood donation program

Hope & Life - Public Cord Blood Banking

Public Cord Blood Banking – Bringing hope & life

Long before she got pregnant, expectant mom Jennifer Widdows firmly believed in donating any biological products that she could. Blood, platelets – you name it. “The folks at the blood and platelet donation centers get very excited when I come in. I’m what they consider an ‘ideal donor’ since I have a high platelet count, relatively lower iron levels, and I haven’t been exposed to a virus that most of the population gets during childhood,” she said. “Some of my platelets go directly to sick infants and leukemia patients. It’s an enormous gift I can give, and it only takes two hours of my day.”
So when she discovered the Be The Match registry was looking for bone marrow donors, naturally, she was intrigued. When she got pregnant with her first child and started expanding her research on how she could continue to give back, she remembered that one way a person could contribute to the Be The Match registry is by donating her newborn’s umbilical cord blood. “By the time I started looking into this option, I had already missed the window of opportunity. I was too far along in my pregnancy to do what was required to donate,” she explained.

So, she chalked it up as a lesson learned.

Widdows and her husband considered privately banking their baby’s cord blood, but they decided against it since their family didn’t have any risk factors that cord blood may help. “I’ve also learned that oftentimes, people find better matches with people who are outside of their immediate family, depending on the disease. We decided that for our next child, publically donating their cord blood would be the best thing to do,” she said. “Private banking is more about the fear of what could happen versus public banking which is about giving and living in hope.”

Now almost 2, Ivan is preparing to become a big brother. Widdows is 36 weeks pregnant, and waiting until delivery to discover if she’ll have another boy in her house or welcome a little girl. Determined not to make the same mistake she did with her first child, her research about how to publically donate started early in her pregnancy. “I filled out a form on a website and met the criteria. They contacted a public cord blood bank in North Carolina, and the bank contacted me,” she explained.

And then, she got a lengthy to-do list.

So did her physician, Dr. John Graziano with Crossroads OB/GYN.

Jennifer Widdows with Dr. John Graziano

Jennifer Widdows with Dr. John Graziano

Widdows showed up at her next appointment with a big stack of paperwork for him to fill out in order for her to donate. Oh – and by the way, he also had to complete online training. A tall task for any busy physician.

The bank had warned her – oftentimes, this was the toughest part of the whole process.

And – after she gets all that done, Dr. Graziano has to actually deliver her. If it’s another doctor who hasn’t completed the necessary training, Widdows won’t be able to donate.

Then, with paperwork in hand, Widdows received some welcome news that – in mere seconds – made her life easier. “He told me that TMC was preparing to launch a public donation program. I couldn’t believe it! All of these things that I was going to have to do. All of these things that my husband and my doula were going to have to do – suddenly, we didn’t have to do all that anymore. Donating this baby’s cord blood was going to be so easy,” said Widdows.

“I had done the paperwork and the training for other patients before, so I was happy to do it for Jennifer, but TMC’s program was about to start,” said Dr. Graziano. “Most expectant moms don’t even think about cord blood until they’re in labor. When we tell them that they now have the option to publically donate it, probably 80 percent are happy to participate. The fact that Jennifer thought about it, educated herself and did her research early in her pregnancy certainly says a lot about her character.”

Ivan shares he has a sibling on the way

Big brother to be Ivan shares that baby is on the way

Widdows connected with Kristen Wilt, TMC’s cord blood coordinator , who explained that TMC’s program doesn’t require expectant mothers to do anything ahead of their delivery. In fact, they can agree to participate in the program when they arrive at TMC in labor. 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 .

So for now, that’s the plan as Widdows enters the home stretch of her second pregnancy. But she is thinking even further beyond that. “I can’t wait to teach my children about the easy ways people can make a difference for others. I believe that if we have these gifts, and just about everybody has the ability to donate something, why not help others in need?”

For more information about the program, please click here , or contact Kristen Wilt at (520) 324-6210 or
To learn more about the importance of cord blood donation, visit

So you’re ready to donate your newborn’s cord blood at TMC. Now what?

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

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

Can I donate my baby’s cord blood?

CanIDonateMyBabysCordBloodWondering whether you can donate your baby’s cord blood and save a life? These questions will help identify whether you qualify:

  • You’re 18 years or older
  • You’re not related to the baby’s father other than by marriage
  • You’re expecting only one baby.
  • As far as you know the baby does not have any fetal abnormalities.

Because of the nature of cord blood transfusions, moms may be asked some health questions including the following:

  • Have you or your baby’s father, or any of my baby’s brothers or sisters ever had any type of cancer or leukemia (including skin cancers)?
  • Have you ever been treated with chemotherapy?
  • Have you been in contact with anyone who received the smallpox vaccine during your pregnancy?
  • Have you ever been exposed to or infected with Hepatitis B or C, HIV or the AIDS Virus, West Nile, or Tuberculosis?
  • Have you used a needle, even once, to take a drug not prescribed by a doctor (including steroids) or in the last 12 months had sex with someone who has?

What if I have tattoos or body piercings can I still donate my baby’s cord blood?
Yes, as long as in the last 12 months you have not had any tattoos or ear, skin or body piercings where shared or non-sterile inks, needles, instruments or procedures were used.

Curious about why donating cord blood is so important? Check out this post.
Should I donate my cord blood. 

Should you donate your baby’s cord blood? – 7 FAQ about Cord Blood Donation

Save a life, save the cord, #Cordblood

TMC for Women is the first site in Southern Arizona for the Arizona Public Cord Blood Donation Program. Saving the cord can save lives. Do you have questions? Ask us here.

1. Will donating my baby’s cord blood hurt my baby or me?

Donating your baby’s cord blood is completely safe for baby and mom. It doesn’t interfere with the labor or delivery, and it won’t affect your baby’s health as no blood is taken from your baby.

2. Wait, isn’t using cord blood stem cells controversial?

Absolutely NOT! There is no controversy regarding cord blood donation. Check out this video from the Save the Cord Foundation to hear Rabbi Stanway and Reverend Manning address this issue.

3. If I’ve donated my baby’s blood can we use it if we need it in our family?

Public cord blood donation is not a free way to bank your child’s cord blood stem cells for future use within your family. However, if your newborn’s sample meets the standards and is uploaded to the national registry, if at any point, the child has a medical need for their cord blood, and it’s available, it can be tracked and used for your child.

4. How are the cord blood stem cells collected?

After your baby is born, the cord is clamped and cut just as it would if you weren’t donating the cord blood. But, instead of being discarded the blood remaining in the cord is drained into a special collection bag and sent to the public cord blood bank. That’s it!

You and your baby’s identity are kept confidential by the cord blood banks. The cord blood sample is identified by a number assigned at the hospital.

5. Okay, I’m expecting and I want to donate my baby’s cord blood. What should I do?

If you are interested in this program and plan on delivering at Tucson Medical Center

  • Let your doctor or midwife know
  • Contact TMC Cord Blood Coordinator Kristen Wilt at (520) 324-6210 or via email at
  • Inform the Labor and Delivery staff when you arrive

6. Who can donate their baby’s cord blood?

You may be eligible to donate if you are:

  • Expecting a single birth
  • Expecting a delivery of at least 36 weeks gestation
  • At least 18 years old

Next post will include more information ‘Can I donate my baby’s cord blood’ watch this space!

7. What if I want to bank my baby’s blood privately?

Check out this information from the Save the Cord Foundation about the benefits of public or private banking to figure out which option is best for your family.

Umbilical cord blood donation – The best gift a mother can give another mother

Noah spider manNancy Swanson calls to her son Noah on the playground at his Phoenix preschool. He doesn’t want to leave, he’s too busy playing and having fun, but it’s time to go to a Phoenix hospital for a weekly check in. This visit is part of a regime of visits to monitor Noah’s progress following a cord blood transplant just over a year ago, a procedure that saved his life; a procedure that required a decision by a mother, unknown to the Swanson family, to donate her child’s umbilical cord blood.

What is a cord blood transplant?

A baby’s umbilical cord blood contains stem cells, immature cells that can grow into many other types of cells. A cord blood transplant uses the stem cells captured from a donated umbilical cord to restore the stem cells when the bone marrow has been destroyed whether by disease, chemotherapy, or radiation. Because stem cells are so versatile they can be used to treat a number of diseases where cells are weakened or diseased and need to be replaced. For more information about how cord blood transplants work check out this link. 

When he was still just three years old, Noah needed a little known procedure call a cord blood transplant. Today, a year later and almost five years old, Noah is thriving, Nancy says, “Because a woman chose to donate her baby’s cord blood publically… the most wonderful gift a mother can give to another mother.”

Why did Noah need a cord blood transplant?

Noah has a disease called Myelofysplastic Syndrome (MDS) . MDS refers to a group of disorders of the bone marrow, the spongy material inside your bones. The bone marrow is where most of our blood cells are made. People with MDS do not form enough healthy blood cells and the only treatment is bone marrow or cord blood transplant.

Typically, MDS affects men over 65 years old. It is not a disease commonly associated with young children, but Noah was diagnosed as a toddler.

How was Noah diagnosed?

At six months old Noah started getting lots of ear infections. “We were always at the pediatricians. They were getting ready to put ear tubes in.” Nancy shares. Then while in California, Noah had a febrile seizure and went to an emergency room.

While Noah was at the hospital, a basic blood panel was taken. At just ten months old, Noah was diagnosed with severe neutropenia. Severe neutropenia means he had extremely low number of neutrophils, a type of white blood cell that helps fight infection. The hospital did a bone marrow biopsy, and then a few months later another, and another, and then a year after the first indications, Noah was diagnosed with MDS and refractory cytopenia of childhood (RCC). The only treatment – a bone marrow or cord blood transplant.

Noah 1st dayThe Search for a Match

Noah was extremely sick, while some individuals with MDS can watch and wait before getting treatment, that wasn’t an option for Noah. Noah needed a transplant, but no one in Noah’s family was a match, not even his young sister Sydney.

Noah was put on the National Marrow Donor Registry (NMDP) and because Noah’s ancestry is predominately Caucasian (the majority of donors are), his family was told there should not be an issue with finding a bone marrow donor, but as time went on there was still no match for Noah. Noah was added to the International Marrow Donor Register in hopes that a wider range of donors might contain the match for Noah.

After one and half years of hoping for a bone marrow match without success, Noah’s doctors suggested that it was time to pursue a cord blood transplant instead.  Cord blood does not require a perfect match between donor and recipient unlike bone marrow transplants and a match was found.

Noah received his cord blood stem cell transplant on July 5th, 2013 from an unrelated donor. Noah was released from his Phoenix hospital on September 17th, 2013 — the day before his fourth birthday — to begin his new life.

Why was it so hard to find a bone marrow transplant for Noah?

While Noah has predominately Caucasian ancestry, he also has Choctaw Native American ancestry. The doctors suspect this missing genetic information was what made finding a bone marrow donor for Noah so difficult. Currently, ethnic minorities are severely under-represented on the National ‘Be The Match’  cord blood registry. The lack of representation of the diverse genetic ancestry in the bone marrow and cord blood registries means that people who are critically ill and could be treated with cord blood transplants can not find matches.

By implementing the Arizona Public Cord Blood Donation Program here at TMC for Women, in Tucson, where we have a rich ancestral diversity, the hope is that new mothers may offer the chance for life via public cord blood donation.

Noah just turned five and while he is still undergoing treatment for his graft vs. host disease the treatments are now every other week rather than twice a week. Today, Noah shows no signs of the MDS and his heart, lungs & liver are healthy. While there are still areas of concern, as would be expected with the cord blood transplant, Noah’s immune system is now strong enough that he can begin getting revaccinated, a vital component for a little boy whose immune system could still be easily overwhelmed by a common virus.

For mom, Nancy, the cord blood transplant is the ultimate gift that they’ve been given for Noah.

“It’s the most wonderful gift a mother can give to another mother.”

Save the Cord Foundation

Save the Cord Foundation is the education partner for the Department of Health Services, Arizona Biomedical Research Commission’s Arizona Public Cord Blood Program. Based in Tucson, non-profit Save the Cord Foundation is an international resource for both private and public cord blood awareness and education.

Baby Jayden: Potential lifesaver just by being born

Save a life, save the cord, #CordbloodBefore Sept. 30, the only thing expectant mom Celina Martinez knew about umbilical cord blood was that it was expensive to privately bank it – too expensive. “I knew I couldn’t afford it, so I didn’t think much about it,” she said.

When Martinez arrived at TMC in labor and settled into her delivery room, in walked cord blood consenter Ali Baker. “She told me that my son’s cord blood can help someone in need, and that if my son ever needed it, he could have it back if it was still available. So I figured why not? Otherwise, it was going to end up in the garbage,” said Martinez.

Baby Jayden Antonio Martinez was born at 4:24 pm, 7 pounds, 3 ounces. After he was delivered, his umbilical cord was clamped and cut. The remaining blood was drained out of it. Martinez didn’t notice a thing. “I was too busy looking at the baby to even realize they were collecting it. It didn’t hurt me or my baby,” she said.

Jayden is one of the first TMC babies to participate in the hospital’s new public donation program, the only hospital in Southern Arizona that’s part of the Arizona Public Cord Blood Program, administered by the Arizona Biomedical Research Commission . “I think it’s great that TMC has this program. If your baby’s blood can help someone in need instead of being thrown away, then why not participate?” said Martinez.

Proud grandma Sandra Martinez teared up while holding her new grandson, just thinking of the possibilities. “It’s wonderful to know that he may be able to help out someone else who is sick and may not have much time left to live. None of us know what’s going to happen to our children or grandchildren down the line. It’s comforting to know that if his blood makes it to the national registry and he needs it in the future, he can have it back if it’s available,” she said.

New mom Celina smiles at the thought of telling baby Jayden about his birthday. “When my son gets older, I can’t wait to tell him – hey, you may have saved a life just by being born.”

To learn more about the importance of cord blood donation, please visit