Health Team

Training helps more hospitals collect life-saving umbilical cord blood

Posted May 30, 2012 5:30 p.m. EDT
Updated May 30, 2012 6:35 p.m. EDT

— Collecting stem-cell-rich umbilical cord blood from newborns can be a potentially life-saving process for others, and thanks to an increase in specialized training at birthing centers around the state, more babies are able to give the gift of life before they ever leave the hospital. 

Cody Elliott Creech, born on Mother's Day at Rex Hospital, is one of the infants who recently donated his umbilical cord blood to the Carolinas Cord Blood Bank at Duke Cancer Center. 

For his parents, the donation of his placenta made his birth more special. 

"I love that, being able to help out with other individuals that have health complications," Dustin Creech, Cody's father, said. 

Deborah Wood, a cord blood specialist at Rex, said the process by which specially trained staff collects cord blood is both delicate and time-sensitive. 

"We collect on it as quickly as we can," Wood said. "It's precious and it has to be done the right way, because any contamination, of course, jeopardizes the unit."

Once a certain amount of cord blood is collected and transported to Duke, it is tested and examined for the all-important stem cell count. 

"(What) we're using is predominantly for transplantation in children," Wood said. "More and more, adults have had (cord blood) treatment for blood diseases."

Stem cells can also be used as an alternative to bone marrow transplants. 

Rex Hospital is now a training center for the collection process for staff from smaller hospitals in the state. As the number of hospitals trained increases, so too does the amount of cord blood that can be banked.

"It could potentially save someone's life," Nicole Creech, Cody's mother, said.