Saturday, July 25, 2009

Confessions from a Banker

Cord blood banking is a relatively new concept in health care. The short version of the science behind it is this. When a baby is born, the doctor pulls the blood from the umbilical cord, stores it in vials, and ships it off to be cryogenically frozen for an indefinite amount of time, until the recipient determines it is needed and uses it for a medical necessity. This is a very costly process - several hundred dollars up front, and then the yearly storage fee of $95.00. But scientists claim that they are making great progress in the use of cord blood as an alternative to treat many different diseases.

That brings me to my story. Eight and a half years ago, my mother-in-law called me on the phone to ask if I would consider having my son's cord blood saved for my brother-in-law, who was, at the time, battling non-Hodgkin's lymphoma cancer. This had been a long battle for him, and doctors were beginning to talk of the use of cord blood as a cure for this incurable disease. So she called, and she told me that if we would be willing to do this, she and my father-in-law would foot the entire bill - initial cost and yearly cost for however long it took thereafter. Why not?! This wasn't going to cost me anything, it was on my doctor to actually pull the blood, and who knew, but that I may actually be helping my brother-in-law in some way. It was a win-win situation. So we agreed, and the cord blood was saved.

It sat in storage for 6 years. Finally, it came down to a question of whether or not this cord blood that had been banked just for my brother-in-law would, in fact, ever be able to help him. He was nearing the end of his options. After discussing it with his doctor, they opted to forget about the cord blood and go straight for a bone marrow transplant. There was no time to lose with him, because his cancer had progressed too far. In their minds, the cord blood was still too experimental, and he just couldn't afford to "experiment" with the time he had left. And so, he went to Dallas, TX, had a bone marrow transplant, and about a month later, died of organ failure.

About 6 months later, when things had calmed down a bit, we began to evaluate whether or not it was worth keeping this cord blood that we had been banking for these many years. Would it ever go bad? Was there a time limit in which it needed to be used? We decided to call Cord Blood Registry, the bank in which we had used, and ask them. The customer service rep told me that, as long as it was cryogenically stored, it could remain in storage indefinitely. Hmmm...

I began to explain to him how we had come to save this in the first place, and that we were trying to decide whether to keep it. My son, after all, is a Type 1 diabetic, and I had heard that they were trying to find a way to use cord blood in the treatment and curing of this disease. Before I could even finish my thoughts, he interrupted me and said, "Oh yes, I know exactly what you're talking about. There is a doctor in Florida who is doing a clinical trial right now using cord blood on Type 1 diabetics." WOW! This was more than I ever expected to get from this phone call!

Immediately, I got on the phone to Florida and spoke with this doctor. He told me that, yes, he was doing clinical trials, but that the enrollment period had just ended. But he did tell me that he'd let me know when enrollment would open up again for his next trial. So, I filed all this information away in the back of my mind, and really figured that was the end of it.

But a few months ago, Dr. Haller e-mailed me to ask if I was still interested - enrollment was now open for his next trial. Yes! Oh my goodness, YES!! Finally, maybe we could put this cord blood to use and help our son. We jumped through all the hoops to see if we would even qualify for this trial, and unfortunately, my son was not a candidate. Boy was I let down!

After much prayer and thinking, I realized that this does not mean the end. Looking back, I can see the hand of God all over this boys life! This is a child that was a complete surprise to us. His cord blood was saved for someone who never had a chance to use it. This boy is the only child out of my 4 children who has an illness - my other 3 children rarely ever have even the sniffles. The list goes on and on. There are just too many things that are absolute evidence of God's plan in this child's life. We just haven't been privileged to see the end to that plan. So we wait. And we will continue to pay every year to keep this cord blood banked, so that, when God sees fit to use this somehow, we will be ready.

So in the end, if you are expecting a baby or even thinking of having one, cord blood banking is certainly something to consider when thinking and planning all your details. I can't tell you that you should or shouldn't pay this small fortune to save cord blood that may or may not ever be used. But I can tell you, if one day you are faced with a child who has a major illness or accident and are in need of that child's cord blood for healing and recovery, you will be glad you banked!

1 comment:

  1. Also, there is plenty of research in the "midwifery" field that is for the cord blood going into the baby at birth until the cord stops pulsing. It is very important and this step is totally blocked now a days.


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