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Wake County Establishes Cord-Blood Collection Center

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RALEIGH, N.C. — During pregnancy, the umbilical cord is the baby's lifeline. After delivery, doctors can use that lifeline to cure life-threatening illnesses. The Carolinas Cord Blood Bank opened in 1998 at Duke. UNC Hospitals and Durham Regional Hospital contribute to the bank. Now for the first time, parents in Wake County can, too.

Tara and Robert Odom feel their daughter, Rachel, is a miracle. In the delivery room, the Odoms did something that may be someone else's miracle: they donated the blood from her umbilical cord.

Western WakeMed in Cary is the first collection site in Wake County. The hospital is working with the Carolinas Cord Blood Bank at Duke.

"It doesn't change the delivery process at all," nurse Kelly Pelosi said.

After delivery, the placenta and umblical cord is usally thrown away. Now parents can donate it.

"Dad can still cut the cord. We just simply hand the placenta to the person standing in the hallway and it goes from there," Pelosi said.

Brian Leatherland and other people from Duke are waiting to collect the blood. This small amount is enough to save a child's life.

"That is still enough to replace all of the bone marrow for any given patient," he said.

The cord blood is tranferred to Duke for storage. Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg, the director of the program, expects Western Wake will contribute 100 more units of blood a month. She uses stem cells from cord bood to treat certain types of cancer and genetic diseases.

With cord blood, a match does not have to be as exact.

"This really gives you a better opportunity to have a donor match," nurse manager Karen Southard said.

Coordinators expect a lot of parents will choose to donate their baby's cord blood and give other children a second chance at life.

"Once we heard it was going to help other babies, we just decided it was the thing to do," said Robert Odom.

Cord blood is collected at Duke Sunday through Thursday. Western Wake is starting a pilot program. They are training their doctors to collect the blood seven days a week.

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