Public cord blood bank donations continue to rise

Life-saving donations of cord blood are on the rise.

"It's your child's first good deed," said Dr. Ryan Brown with Atrium Health. 

Nearly seven years ago, Brown and a team at Atrium Health NorthEast helped launch a cord blood donor program in conjunction with the Carolinas Cord Blood Bank. The CCBB in Durham serves the region as a resource for cord blood donations and Atrium is one of the largest collectors.

"It was a no brainer," said Sarah Helms.

When she left the hospital with her babies she left something behind to help save lives. She donated their umbilical cords. Helms and her husband learned about the option of donating during maternity classes. After completing some paper work there was very little Helms had to do to complete the process besides welcome her baby into the world.

"It was just something that was going to be medical waste then maybe someday someone would benefit from it," said Helms.

She's one of thousands choosing to donate cord blood after giving birth.

"When we started the program we said let's get more donors so we can help more patients on the other end," said Dr. Brown.

Cord blood is full of stem cells that can replace and rebuild diseased cells. In some cases, it's used instead of a bone marrow transplant which requires a more precise match between donor and patient. Doctors can use cord blood to treat dozens of diseases including leukemia and sick-cell anemia.

"Cord blood donation is absolutely painless and in most cases it would be thrown away, and we can use it for very valuable donations," said Dr. Brown.

At NorthEast, the collections are taken from the delivery room down the hall to a small room. It's in the room they are boxed up and then shipped to the storage bank in Durham.

"Just like a blood donation bank it depends on people giving in order to receive," said Helms.

Over the years the number of transplants and collections has grown according to Dr. Brown. The collection doesn't cost the donor a dime. As her children grow, she plans to tell them about their first good deed.

It's a gift that may give someone a second chance.

The collection program is offered at University City and as of June 2019, Atrium Health's flagship hospital Carolinas Medical Center.