Smarter Living: Donating cord blood - WRBL

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Smarter Living: Donating cord blood

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Carolinas Cord Blood Bank Carolinas Cord Blood Bank
DURHAM, N.C. - When expecting a new baby, parents are often consumed with prepping for their baby's arrival. But did you know that the blood from your baby's placenta can help save lives?

Your new baby is a wonderful gift, but it can also give the gift of life to another child.

In this edition of 'Smarter Living,' we meet Maalik. He's staying at the Ronald McDonald House of Durham with his mom. He's alive today because of a cord blood donation.

Thanks to a cord blood donor, 2-year-old Maalik is beating the odds.

"Cord blood is the baby's blood left over in the placenta or the afterbirth after the babies born," said Joanne Kurtzberg, director of the pediatric blood and marrow transplant program and the director of the Carolinas Cord Blood Bank at Duke University.

Maalik has a metabolic disease called Hurler's Syndrome. The expected life span is only five years.

"He's missing a vital enzyme that helps his brain and his bones and his heart and his eyes and many other organs develop," said Maalik's mother, Krystal Brinson.

Because of the cord blood transplant, he has beaten the odds.

There are a few things that make cord blood unique.

"Cord blood has stem cells of the blood, kind of like the bone marrow is the blood factory, which can repopulate the bone marrow, and the blood and the immune system for the life of the patient undergoing a transplant," said Kurtzberg.

Blood from your arms have cells that can only live a few months.

"It's been a long journey," Brinson said. "We spent about three months in inpatient."

Last year Maalik underwent intense preparation for the transplant, first undergoing nine days of high-dose chemotherapy.

After that came the infusion of cord blood cells.

"The chemotherapy destroyed his own bone marrow, the cord blood cells rescued his bone marrow and now because he's engrafted, the cells are growing permanently in his body and they're replacing the enzyme that he was missing," his mother said.

Today, Maalik is happy and healthy.

Recovery takes about one or two years. Cord blood donations are low and can be used for all the same diseases as a bone marrow transplant would be used for.

A simple message to expecting moms: donating cord blood is totally free and there's no risk to the baby or mom. The blood is taken after delivery.

For more information: Carolinas Cord Blood Bank and Be the Match.
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