The ongoing evolution and advancement in scientific research provides compelling reason to consider banking a newborn baby’s cord blood.
Amidst all the hype and anticipation that surrounds the decision to embark upon starting a family is quite possibly one of life’s scariest realisations. For it was not until my husband and I made the decision to jump blindly aboard the child rearing express that we realised that we had entered an infinite period of worry. Life before children is utterly carefree and brimming with self-indulgence, but from the very moment that the decision is made, either by you, or for you, to breed, you have unwittingly welcomed worriment into your daily life.
What start as short periods of apprehension – “Will I make it through the first trimester? Will the 20-week scan be clear of any issues? Will my baby inherit my husband’s sixth toe?”- soon develop into what can only be described as mild paranoia, relentlessly fuelled by the griping, heart-wrenching stories of others as regularly featured in the Sunday Downers a.k.a. 60 Minutes.
And so it is that we come to accept and live with the fact that forever more (I don’t imagine it’s something that ever dissipates) we will worry for our children, and in particular we will worry for their health.
It’s largely this burgeoning worry that delivered me to my old mate and late-night bed pal Dr Google, to learn more of all manner of problems and possible solutions in order to ease the lingering anguish. It was here that I chanced upon a miracle of sorts, an insurance policy that can only be described as a saving grace for my long-term peace of mind. Cordbank is a New Zealand-owned entity that offers locals the opportunity to collect and store their newborn baby’s cord blood. Understanding what this means is where it gets a little scientific, but basically stem cells are, in essence, the master cells of human life. They are responsible for the creation of organs, tissues, blood and the body’s immune system. At the time of birth, leftover cord cells that are still in their purest form, remain in the newborn baby’s umbilical cord. Typically discarded, those who choose to bank their child’s cord blood can request that the doctor extract this all-important blood, which is then swiftly sent off to Cordbank’s state-of-the-artfacilities for testing, freezing and longterm storage.
Having the ability to call upon this cord blood should the unthinkable ever arise, means as parents you have access to the purest form of your baby’s precious stem cells that can be potent enough to change the outcome of a number of illnesses, ailments or injuries that could materialise at any stage in life. Offering hope in the fight against all manner of horrors for any parent, from brain injury, Type 1 diabetes, autism, hearing loss, spinal injury, post cancer treatment or the reversal of paralysis, for me the decision to opt for cord banking my son’s stem cells was an absolute no brainer. The fact that I am storing what are essentially the exact building blocks of my son – a sample that can be called upon at any time, allowing us to take advantage of therapy that could essentially transform an otherwise dire outcome – is the ultimate in peace of mind. While many may dispute this suggesting that it is a complete waste of money and an effort to play on the fears of parents who may never even make use of it; as someone with a science degree, I refute this. My view is that we should be eternally grateful for the evolution of mankind and the stellar progress that many medical and research professionals are making to ensure that we actually do have options available to us should disaster strike. To read of the cases where stem cells have been successfully re-introduced to an ailing adult or child, only to result in a complete turn-around from what was an otherwise grim situation, is encouragement enough for me. By banking my own children’s stem cells, I am not only acknowledging the indisputably impressive progress that science has made in the advancement of quality human life, but am also doing the very best I can for my child.
Since the services inception in 2002, Cordbank have released banked cord blood stem cells for reintroduction to eight children. One such case is that of Maia Friedlander.
Suffering from oxygen deprivation at birth, Maia’s development was limited from the very outset. Not long after birth, her parents became aware that she was not developing at the same rate as her twin sister. After much consultation, Maia was eventually diagnosed with a cerebral palsy-like condition; having major issues with balance, coordination and speech, her learning and development was extremely limited. For the first five years of her life Maia spent more than six hours a day with speech therapists, physiotherapists and behaviour therapists but ultimately there was little or no sign of progress. ‘Pretty much all she did for years was drool and scream.’
Committed to finding a solution, the Friedlanders discovered a groundbreaking treatment in the US that involved reintroducing Maia’s stem cells. Luckily Maia’s parents had the foresight to store her cord blood at birth.
Jillian Friedlander took Maia to the United States for a procedure pioneered by Dr Joanna Kurtzberg, a leading paediatric oncologist at Duke University in North Carolina. The reintroduction of Maia’s cord blood was via an IV drip over the course of an hour in a relatively straightforward procedure. The impact of the treatment was soon obvious; within the first twelve months Maia could count, read and write, and two years on from cord blood reinfusion, her outlook is completely different. While she is still catching up with her sister, she is showing impressive developmental progress.
Dr Joanne Kurtzberg believes that “In terms of medical research, we have exhausted much of what drugs can do and the major research is now into the possibilities of what can be done with humans own stem cells. Using cells to help repair tissue is the next big advancement in medicine.”