More Cleveland-area mothers are donating their umbilical cord blood to help cancer patients

Posted at 6:50 PM, Apr 13, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-13 18:52:17-04

Nearly half of all mothers who give birth at two Cleveland-area hospitals are choosing to donate their umbilical cord blood, according to the state’s only public cord blood center. 

The Cleveland Cord Blood Center processes and distributes umbilical cord blood-derived stem cell units for use in transplants for patients with life-threatening blood disorders. 

Nationally, only about 5 percent of mothers donate their umbilical cord blood. 

CCBC Executive Director Marcie Finney says their number of donations has increased substantially since the center opened in 2008. 

The birthing centers involved are Hillcrest Hospital and Fairview Hospital. After delivery, the cord blood is collected, bar-coded and taken to the facility. Then it’s frozen and made available to transplant centers across the world.

It’s a budding technology that has given leukemia patients like Diana Tirpak a new lease on life. 

“I was given 2 to 6 months to live,” said Tirpak, who was diagnosed with acute myelogenious leukemia in July 2007. 

Her oncologist suggested the stem cell treatment and on February 22, 2008, Tirpak said she received a life-saving gift from an anonymous baby girl donor. 

“I am a real good example of being recycled material,” said Tirpak, who’s been cancer-free ever since. 

Finney said that over the last 9 years, the CCBC has delivered cord blood to over 450 people and 20 percent of their units are sent outside the United States. 

CCBC is one of just 7 facilities across the country that has its stem cell product licensedby the Food and Drug Administration. 

Finney said the increase is in part due to the fact that the donation discussion has become an essential part of many patient’s birthing plans. 

“The donation rate is way above what we had anticipated,” she said. “We never imagined that we would get half of the people that deliver their babies to donate their cord blood. And they’re really excited about it.” 

Right now, patients can only donate through the two participating hospitals. But other interested mothers can contact the CCBC if they’d like to find a way to donate.