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Interest Growing in Donating to ‘Cord-Blood’ Banks

Aimee Sharp
Author | Shield HealthCare
03/24/15  11:55 PM PST
newborn umbilical cord

By Jonel Aleccia for the The News Tribune

SEATTLE – Like other first-time parents, Carl Field and Christy Olsen Field had dozens of details to finalize as they prepared for their son’s birth last August.

But unlike most parents in Seattle and elsewhere, the Ballard couple made sure to stress one crucial item on the birth-plan checklist: Donate the baby’s umbilical cord blood to a public cord-blood bank.

“We had a few different doctors right at the end of our pregnancy,” recalled Christy Olsen Field, 29. “We told each of them that we wanted to do the cord-blood donation. We had to tell them that we wanted to do it.”

The doctors supported the Fields’ desire to donate cord blood, a rich source of stem cells that can be used for lifesaving transplants for people with cancer and other diseases. But the practice is far from routine.

Only about 20 percent of eligible local parents donate their newborns’ cord blood to public banks. Otherwise, it’s discarded as medical waste.

In addition, only about a quarter of local hospital staffers are trained and certified to be able to collect cord blood, said Dave Larsen, director of communications for Bloodworks Northwest, formerly Puget Sound Blood Center. And, in the past, few area hospitals were part of the program that allowed patients to donate.

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