The new program is opening at Dignity Health Chandler Regional Medical Center in August, 2017, with cord blood donations going to Celebrations Stem Cell Centre in Gilbert.
"Umbilical cord blood donations can save lives," said Wendy Barrett, RN, cord blood collection program coordinator at St. Joseph's. "Some 3,000 people die each year before they can find a match, so it's critical to increase the inventory of cord blood units. We urge Valley mothers who are expecting to consider donating this precious resource."
There are 850 cord blood transplants in the U.S. each year, and 4,000 worldwide. Part of the Arizona Public Cord Blood Program, the St. Joseph's program has received 3,600 donations since 2011. As part of the Arizona Biomedical Research Commission, this program collects umbilical cord blood and sends it to the University of Colorado Cord Blood Bank for use in transplants.
More than 80 different conditions or diseases may be treated with cord blood, including leukemia, lymphoma, sickle cell disease, Hurler syndrome and Myelodysplastic syndrome.
Because it contains the same blood-forming cells that are in bone marrow, umbilical cord blood has the potential to build a new blood system in transplant recipients. Patients with potentially fatal blood diseases can go through chemotherapy to destroy their diseased blood and then receive a transplant - and cord blood transplants have fewer rejection problems for recipients.
Some transplants take place as quickly as five months after a donation; other donations may be stored for decades until the need arises for that specific unit.
"The transplant process is just like getting a small blood transfusion," Barrett said. "Donating cord blood does not change labor or the delivery process and does not endanger the mother or the baby. But, the donation could definitely save a life."