WOMACK ARMY MEDICAL CENTER, FORT BRAGG, N.C. — Stephanie Ortecho took her newborn home to an energetic brother and a sister, to Dad and to their Army life Wednesday.
Their birth story is not over though.
When they went home, they left behind hope for other families. Stephanie and baby Emiliano donated umbilical cord blood.
“Seemed like a waste to throw it out, so I said, ‘yes,’” said Stephanie, who delivered her first two babies in New York and had never heard of cord blood banks until she arrived at WAMC.
Ninety six percent of moms who give birth at Womack donate life-saving umbilical cord blood to the Carolinas Cord Blood Bank.
The CCBB is a public cord blood bank that collects, tests, processes and stores cord blood that may be used to treat patients with cancer, sickle cell or life-threatening genetic diseases requiring a life-saving transplant.
“We’ve been here for almost ten years,” said NaTasha Randall, the clinical research coordinator for CCBB at Womack. “Up until this point we’ve had 50 units that have been transplanted to children.”
Womack is one of only two military hospitals with a cord blood donation program. The other one is Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii.
Military families have a great standard of care and great ethnic diversity, making Army mothers great donors, said cord blood collector Melanie Gagliano.
So far this year, units collected at Womack were used to treat acute lymphoblastic leukemia, adrenoleukodystrophy and myelodysplastic disorder (MDS/myelodysplastic syndromes), Gagliano said.
Sometimes units are used for research. Cord blood was found to reduce inflammation in the brain, and based on that research, there’s a clinical trial going on at Duke University this year involving cord blood therapies for children with autism.
“That got me,” said Stephanie, who has a family member with autism. “If we all do it and help a little bit – not just with cord blood donation, but life in general – we could make a difference.”
The director of the CCBB, Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg, is a world renowned stem cell and research pioneer from Duke University and performed the first unrelated cord blood transplant in the world at Duke in 1993, Randall said.
Donating cord blood doesn’t change a mom’s birth experience in any way. That includes delayed clamping.
“We can collect after that,” Gagliano said. “There’s a lot of misinformation out there about being able to do both, and moms when they come here have the option of doing one or the other or both.”
To become a donor, expecting mothers should talk to their doctor or midwife. The mother will be asked to review and sign a consent form prior to delivery and will complete a medical history form.
For more information, contact the Womack collection team at (910) 643-2517.
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