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Baby Matters

Banking on the Perfect Match: Cord Blood Donation

January 1st, 2015

Submitted by Canadian Blood Services

Nate is a typical active little boy who enjoys playing with his two brothers, Spencer and Chase, and the family's golden retriever, Fran. It’s an everyday scene, but just a few short years ago, it would have seemed like a dream.  

After Amy and Mike Lupton's son, Nate, was born on April 7, 2010, he was diagnosed with Wiskott Aldrich Syndrome.  It’s a rare immune deficiency that affects one in 250,000 male newborns.  The disease impacts the body's ability to produce platelets and fight infection.

The only cure for little Nate was a stem cell transplant, meaning he needed to find a stem cell donor through the Canadian Blood Services OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network.

OneMatch finds and matches volunteer donors to patients who need a stem cell transplant.  Fewer than 25 per cent of patients find a compatible donor in their own family.

Fortunately, a match was found for Nate and at eight months old, and he received a cord blood stem cell transplant.  Before his transplant and while waiting for his new marrow to start working Nate needed 40 blood transfusions.   He also received immunoglobulin treatments before and after his transplant due to his compromised immune system. While Nate's transplant was a success, a typical week for the Lupton family still includes frequent hospital visits, and being very cautious about any threats to Nate's sensitive immune system.

Demand for stem cells in Canada is growing as is the number of Canadian patients waiting for life-saving stem cell transplant.   The creation of the national public cord blood bank will increase the opportunities for Canadian patients to receive the transplant they need, patients like Nate.

In order to help others, Canadian Blood Services’ national public cord blood bank collects cord blood units donated voluntarily by mothers across Canada at designated hospitals. There is no cost to donate and mothers and families can find out more about donation by speaking with their doctor or visiting us online at blood.ca.

Canadian Blood Services’ national public cord blood bank currently operates in the following cities and hospitals:

  • Ottawa — at the Ottawa Hospital General and Civic campuses

  • Brampton (Greater Toronto Area) — at the William Osler Health System’s Brampton Civic Hospital

  • Edmonton — at the Alberta Health Services’ Lois Hole Hospital for Women

  • Vancouver — at the BC Women’s Hospital and Health Centre

One any given day in Canada, nearly 1,000 patients are searching for a stem cell transplant; many of them are from ethnically diverse backgrounds and the aim of the national public cord blood bank is to improve these numbers.   Canada needs donors from all ethnic backgrounds: a more diverse bank means there is a better chance of finding a match when someone needs a transplant. We know the best opportunity for a successful match is typically from someone of the same ethnic background.

If you’re an expectant mother, think about donating your baby's cord blood. Cord blood stem cells have been used to treat more than 80 diseases and disorders, including leukemia, lymphoma, aplastic anemia, inherited immune system disorders, inherited metabolic disorders, sickle cell disease and many rarer conditions. Promising results from recent and ongoing stem cell research have shown potential for developing safe and effective therapies for patients around the world.

To be able to donate cord blood, you must:

  • Be at least 18 years old and in generally good health

  • Have reached at least 34 weeks’ gestation

  • Be carrying a single pregnancy

  • Be free of infectious diseases that could affect successful transplantation of cells, such as HIV/AIDS or hepatitis

  • Be free of diseases or medical conditions that could be passed on to a patient who receives a cord blood stem cell transplant

  • As well, neither you nor the baby’s father should have a history of cancer requiring chemotherapy.

Through the Campaign For All Canadians and in support of a truly national public cord blood bank, Canadian Blood Services has committed to raising $12.5-million in charitable donations.    In additional to the fundraising campaign, the provincial and territorial ministers of health (outside of Québec) approved the total estimated cost of $48-million to establish and operate a fully functioning national public cord blood bank.   

Consider helping a patient like Nate and find out if you are eligible to donate your baby’s cord blood or how to make a financial donation at www.blood.ca.

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