How Asian American Parents Can Save Lives: Donate Cord Blood

Thuy Diem Tran noticed that wherever she scratched, she would instantly get a rash.  “One day I was shopping and tried on lip gloss, pressing my lips together, and the next day my lips were black with bruising.”  She was diagnosed with aplastic anemia, and her life was saved for one reason:  an umbilical cord blood transplant.

What is an umbilical cord blood?  It is blood taken from the umbilical cord of a child right after it is bornAccording to this FAQ, cord blood is one of three sources of blood forming cells for transplants, the other being bone marrow and circulating blood.  Cord blood is used for transplants in people with leukemia, lymphoma, and other diseases.  No blood is directly taken from the mother or baby, only from the umbilical cord after the birth takes place.

Cord blood has the advantage of not having to match the recipient closely as bone marrow.  Still, matches are closer within ethnic groups, and there is a definite need for more Asian American cord blood. Whether to save the cord blood for one’s family or donating it is a key decision, and the FAQ points out tradeoffs.  Tran talks to expectant mothers, including Asian American expectant mothers, about cord blood donation:  “Look at me. What more can I say?” she says to them. “It’s such a small action that can mean the world to someone else.”

I wish I had known or was reminded about the possibility of cord blood storage or donation when my children were born in the 1990’s.  I don’t recall any of the doctors and nurses ever mentioning that.  How about you new parents?  Did you save or donate cord blood?  Were you ever told of the possibility of storing or donating cord blood?

Expecting parents can check out for more information and a list of participating hospitals or call (800) 627-7692.

(flickr photo credit:  Kakapo31)

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About Jeff

Jeff lives in Silicon Valley, and attempts to juggle marriage, fatherhood, computer systems research, running, and writing.
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