Monday, August 31, 2015

New reasons why moms should bank their cord blood

This post is brought to you by CordLife.

This is me way back in 2012, a few hours after giving birth to my second son, Iñigo. Hehe, I still look shocked. So I was mortified when a parenting TV show used this photo for an episode on cord blood banking (and they forgot to get my permission, too. Very bad, MARS!).

Anyway, my longtime mommy readers know that we banked Iñigo's cord blood when he was born. We didn't do it with Vito because we balked at the price, but by the time Iñigo came along, there were payment plans that made it easier for us to invest in it. Back then it was P48,000++ at blood collection then P8,000++ for the annual storage fee. Still pricey, that's why we didn't bank my third son Piero's cord blood and umbilical cord, thinking that one kid's stem cells are enough. But now I regret it. I should've banked all the stem cells I could! Grrr! Why? Because I just learned that stem cell research is now making huge strides in how these miraculous cells can help heal us!

Just recently, I was invited to a lay forum on stem cells. It was presented by CordLife to the Rotary Club after dinner at the EDSA Shangri-la Hotel. Here I am (in red) at the bloggers' table with (from left) Em Matias-Sulit, Noemi Dado, Neva Santos, Tin Dychiao and Jackie Go. Now I'm normally home by 5pm but I was told new findings on uses for stem cells will be shared so off I went!

You see, when we banked Iñigo's cord blood, we just did so as an insurance for some dreaded happening in the future, with the hope that it won't happen of course. But when we looked at the list of what stem cells were being used on back in 2012, we weren't really concerned because the diseases listed (weren't in our family histories. So the banking of the cord blood was for "just in case."

I was curious to know what science has come up with in the last three years. And, boy, have they found out a lot. Now I really wish I banked my cord blood and umbilical cord when Piero was born!

First, what are stem cells?
Stem cells are "cells with the ability to divide for indefinite periods in culture and to give rise to specialized cells." [source: National Institutes of Health]. I understand them to be our building block cells. They are unspecialized, basically blank cells, that develop into the different kinds of cells in our body with a specialized function—some cells become muscle cells, some become brain cells, some become bone cells, etc.

There is an abundance of stem cells in the umbilical cord tissue, the cord blood, and the baby itself because of the rapid growth and development that happens when we create new life. But we grown-ups have stem cells, too. Not as fresh maybe but still good enough to be harvested especially from parts like our bone marrow. We have enough stem cells because they repair our bodies when we are injured, sick, and even simply because we're aging.

Second, how can stem cells be used?
Because of the stem cells' unique ability to transform into specialized cells and because they transform with no limit, they have been or have potential to be used in treating conditions and diseases that are caused by a damaged organ.

Here's a list:

  • Blood cancers (Acute Myelogenous Leukemia, Acute Lymoblastic Leukemia, Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia, Histiocytic Neoplasms, other Myeloproliferative Neoplasms, Myelodysplastic Syndrome, Multiple Myeloma)
  • Non-malignant blood disorders (Aplastic Anemia, Chediak-Higashi Syndrome, Congenital Dyserythropoietic Anaemia, Diamond-Blackfan Syndrome, DiGeorge Syndrome, Evans Syndrome, Fanconi's Anemia, Glanzmann's Thrombasthenia, Leukocyte Adhesion Deficiency, Paraxysmal Nocturnal Hemoglobinuria, Pure Red Cell Aplasia, Sickle Cell Anemia, Thalassemia Major, Hereditary BM failure sundromes) 
  • Solid tumors (Hodgkin Lymphoma, Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, Langerhans' Cell Histiocytosis, Neuroblastoma, Retinoblastoma)
  • Immunodeficiency disorders (Chronic Granulomatous Disease, Common Variable Immunodeficiency, Severe Combined Immune Deficiency, Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome
  • Metabolic disorders (Adrenoleukodystrophy, Gaucher's Disease, Hurler Syndrome, Krabbe Disease, Metachromatic leukodystrophy, Osteopetrosis, Wolman Disease)
  • Ewing Sarcoma
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Crohn's Disease
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Heart diseases
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Diabetis Type 1
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Cartilege Degeneration
There are studies supporting that stem cells may also be used to treat Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's, burns and even autism and HIV! They can be used in organ donation so that the recipient's body won't reject organs. They may even delay aging. Finally, the fountain of youth!

Third, how does this affect us mommies?
I know that banking our cord blood is a lot of money. We're not even sure if any of the above diseases and disorders will affect our family (but we can certainly hope they won't!). So it feels like P48,000++ plus P8,000 (add VAT pa) annually is an expense to keep extraordinary paranoia at bay.

But what if our kids fall victim to a terrible disease? What if they suffer an injury? What if they need stem cell therapy in the future? It's not even just them since stem cells can be used to treat other members of the family.
One of the speakers at the lay forum was Atty. Lorna Kapunan. We know her as the fearless human rights lawyer representing controversial personalities like Hayden Kho and Janet Lim Napoles. At the forum, she spoke of something she said she doesn't speak of: the death of her youngest son, King.

King was a healthy little boy and the darling of his mother. One day, he came home from school covered in mysterious bruises. He had leukemia. Atty Kapunan, for all her fearlessness, was vanquished by her son's disease and death. As she talked about the painful memory of losing her son and then losing her faith, I started to cry. I think every parent in that forum did. I can't imagine losing any of my boys. It is the one thing that will destroy me.

Atty Kapunan established the King Kapunan Leukemia Foundation for Children, which gives children afflicted with leukemia assistance and information to get treatment. The foundation has partnered with CordLife, too. Atty Kapunan believes that if stem cell therapy was available back when King was diagnosed with leukemia, maybe his suffering wouldn't have been so great. Maybe he'd still be alive today.

As a mother, I'm not taking any chances when it comes to my children's health. I will do whatever I can to protect them and saving our stem cells is one of the best things I ever did. If—and I pray to God this will be true!—if ever we never get to use those cells for disease and cell regeneration of damaged or injured organs, then my sons can use those cells so that they can stay as handsome as ever!

I'm so happy I'm a CordLife mom. While my attendance to the event was sponsored, this "I'm a CordLife mom" statement is totally from me. It isn't a paid endorsement—my husband and I really paid for and continue to pay for our cord blood banking! It's expensive. Ugh! But because of what I now know, I wish I did it for Vito and I wish I did it for Piero. My children's health is always worth it.

If you're trying to get pregnant or are pregnant, talk to your OBG about cord blood banking. Find out if your risks make cord blood banking a sure investment for your family. Discuss it with your husband. And for more information, do check out the website of CordLife.

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This is all pretty new to me so please feel free to share your mommy wisdom!