A Father’s Story: Cord Blood Saved His Son’s Life

A Father’s Story: Cord Blood Saved His Son’s Life

Erik Praskins spoke about his son’s battle with leukemia at the Arizona Cord Blood Conference 2017 held in Phoenix, Arizona. His story is not unique yet, it is hard for many of us to imagine. Watch Erik tell his story below. . .

Children are sometimes described as “angels among us.” Indeed, every parent has felt that emotional moment of amazement looking into their child’s eyes or watching them discover something new in the world. Everytime they walk in the room, our perspective on the world changes. In their innocence, we are reminded of all that is good in the world. Perhaps, this is why we are always so shocked and saddened to hear about children fighting cancer? It seems so unjust (and it is).

According to the American Cancer Society (source: www.cancer.org), leukemia is the most common cancer in children and teens. Within the leukemia category, the most common are acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) and acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Although 5-year survival rates have increased, each year more than 2,000 children under age 19 die from cancer in the United States alone (source: www.childrenscancer.org).

In a recent talk at the Arizona Cord Blood Conference, Erik Praskins spoke openly about how his son’s life was saved thanks to a generous cord blood donation from a family he will probably never meet. His son, Dylan, was only 2 months old when he was diagnosed with leukemia, specifically ALL. His case was very serious. He was considered high-risk and required a stem cell transplant immediately. When a bone marrow donor could not be found, doctors turned to cord blood. Cord blood is more easily matched than bone marrow. It is also readily available if stored at birth. Recent studies have also suggested that a cord blood transplant for high-risk patients results in fewer cases of relapse (source: www.fredhutch.org).

Dylan was lucky in so many ways. His parents and doctors were quick to identify the cancer. They worked tirelessly to find an appropriate treatment for him. Little did they know on day one of this battle, that it would be the birth of another child somewhere in the world who would give Dylan a second chance. That child’s family literally gave life twice by donating their child’s cord blood instead of simply throwing it away. For this, Dylan’s family is eternally grateful. Just watch Erik’s face at the end of this video and you will see the gratitude spill over.

Perhaps their are angels among us?

Learn more about Dylan’s story here.

 

Save the Cord Foundation is proud to work with and support public cord blood donation programs around the world. We are especially proud of our work with the Arizona Public Cord Blood Program in our home state.
Find out how you can donate to this amazing public program
that helps patients, like Dylan, in Arizona and across the globe.

 

Cord Blood Experts Discuss Educational Approaches for Parents, Health Professionals & Students

Cord Blood Experts Discuss Educational Approaches for Parents, Health Professionals & Students

cord blood world europe 2017 educational approaches roundtableSave the Cord Foundation recently had the honor of attending Cord Blood World Europe 2017, part of the World Advanced Therapies & Regenerative Medicine Congress and World Precision Medicine Congress, held in London. This was a fantastic opportunity to hear excellent speakers such as Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg, Dr. Colleen Delaney, Dr. Paul Veys, Dr. Guy Sauvageau and many others speak about cord blood research and current uses for cord blood in the medical world. In addition, topics went beyond cord blood at times as experts discussed processing and uses for cord tissue as well as other perinatal stem cells. Regenerative medicine was a recurring theme throughout.

A great emphasis was placed on interacting with the expert presenters via lively roundtables and open panel discussions. Save the Cord Foundation was invited to host a roundtable discussion called “Educational Approaches.” We worked with attendees on new educational approaches addressing a variety of audiences, namely health professionals, expectant parents and our next generation of STEM professionals. Several of the participants in this roundtable discussion agreed to share their thoughts with the Save the Cord Foundation community. Below is a quick summary based on some of the most talked about presentations:

One of the most exciting presentations was made by Dr. Colleen Delaney of Nohla Therapeutics and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Dr. Delaney presented “Ex-vivo Expanded Hematopoietic Stem/Progenitor Cell Therapies: The Road from a Patient Specific to Universal Donor Approach.” Participants in our roundtable commented that there were several key points made in this presentation that health professionals and parents needed to know about, for example:

After hearing Dr. Delaney’s presentation, I feel parents and health professionals need to realize why cord blood expansion techniques and the concept of the ‘universal donor’ which Dr. Delaney is exploring are so necessary. In particular, compared to patients of Caucasian descent, if a patient of mixed ethnicity is trying to find a match today the odds go down drastically. It is important for parents to know why this cord blood expansion technology led by Dr. Delaney is important and that happily it is perhaps just a few years away from being market ready. That potential is very encouraging.Mara Lucato (Create Cord Blood Bank Canada - www.createcordbank.com)

Another interesting presentation was made by Chiranya (Anjie) Prachaseri of Cryoviva in South East Asia, called “Perinatal Stem Cell Banking- Uses and Future Opportunities – A South East Asian Perspective.” This presentation emphasized the on-going problem with press and media coverage of cord blood which can often mislead parents and doctors. Prachaseri also discussed the fact that many parents do not know about the various accreditation groups who play a very important role in the industry.

Although the presentation focused mainly on South East Asia, Dr. Mareike Uhlmann from Stemlab, who participated in our roundtable, agreed it is crucial. . .

to ensure that the bank you want to use for storage is properly accredited and certified to guarantee that the parent’s hopes won’t be shattered in case a treatment is needed.Dr. Mareike Uhlmann (Stemlab - www.stemlab.ch)

Andre Gomes, also from Stemlab, stated how important it is to address the misinformation that is being given to our youth – the next generation of scientists, doctors, policy makers, etc. He applauded Prachaseri’s efforts of speaking to university students about cord blood and stem cell applications.

This has to be explained. More information must be given to young people otherwise we will always be fighting misinformation and confusing press. We need to move from the idea that ‘stem cells are bad’ to a discussion about the good and bad reasons for stem cell storage.Andre Gomes (Stemlab - www.stemlab.ch)

Finally, another presentation that prompted interesting discussion was made by Joana Correia of Exogenus Therapeutics. Correia presented “Umbilical Cord Blood Supply for the Development of Exo-Wound, an Exosome-based Product for Chronic Wounds.” Based on this presentation, roundtable participants saw opportunity for future STEM professionals who want to explore cellular expansion, delivery mechanisms, exosome extraction or even the shifts between translational and clinical applications. While these opportunities cannot be denied, several roundtable participants expressed caution reminding the group that cord blood stem cells are truly precious and should be used wisely.

Our collective responsibility, as scientists and educators, is to ensure that parents understand the true value of their newborn’s stem cells.Dr. Ayub Lulat (Create Cord Blood Bank Canada - www.createcordbank.com )
Challenges in cord blood education

Experts discuss challenges in cord blood education

We, at Save the Cord Foundation, could not agree more. Cord blood is rich in stem cells. If collected and stored properly, these stem cells could be currently used to treat more than 80 different life-threatening diseases including many blood cancers. Compared to bone marrow, it is much easier to match and carries less risk of Graft versus Host Disease. Impressive research is also underway around the globe to test cord blood’s potential in regenerative medicine. For example, there is ground-breaking research to potentially treat spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, hearing loss and diabetes all using cord blood.

This is why we tell every parent. . . do everything you can to save your baby’s cord blood. If you can donate it, then donate it. If you prefer to privately store it (for eventual use by your child or family member), then do it. Be proactive and plan ahead. Please don’t throw this valuable medical resource away. Save the cord.

Meet another cord blood expert: Dr. Curtis Cetrulo, Sr.

Learn about the current uses of cord blood and perinatal stem cells. . . click here.

 

 

Mother of Four Won the Battle Against Breast Cancer and Leukemia: Deb Martell, Part 4 #WeCanICan series

Mother of Four Won the Battle Against Breast Cancer and Leukemia: Deb Martell, Part 4 #WeCanICan series

Mother of four, Deb Martell fought breast cancer and won only to discover nine years later that she had developed leukemia (AML). Cord blood saved her life.

Part 4 in our #WeCanICan: Beat Cancer with Cord Blood series, in association with World Cancer Day

Life is so simple. You are born. You go to school. You meet someone nice, get married, have a few kids. . . and boom! Cancer.

Cancer does not discriminate. It can pick on anyone and at any time. Originally from Wisconsin, Deb Martell moved to Denver in 1997 with her family. She was 36 years old at the time and a proud mother of four adorable children aged (4, 6, 9 & 11). Life was moving along nicely and very busy due to the move. So, you can imagine how shocked Deb was when she learned she had breast cancer just two months after the move.

Deb’s doctors moved quickly to put her on a hard course of chemotherapy. They also performed an autologous transplant (using her own stem cells), considered a radical treatment in the late 90’s. The treatment saved her life but also damaged her body severely. In particular, the harsh chemo treatment would prove to have a potentially fatal long-term side effect. Everyone knew there was a risk of this but Deb knew she was facing a life or death choice. She followed her doctor’s advice and won a second chance at life. She won the battle against breast cancer!

Fast forward nine years. . . Deb was enjoying her new life and so grateful to have beaten breast cancer. She and her family had moved again. Now, they were living in Wisconsin. The kids were growing up fast. Her oldest was now 20. The youngest was 13. All were keeping her busy with school runs, getting everyone to afterschool activities like hockey and soccer and volunteering at the church.

This was 2007 and Deb had just returned from dropping her second son off at college. She knew something was wrong. She felt incredibly weak. She made an appointment with her doctor. They drew some blood and realized that she needed two units immediately. A bone marrow biopsy was ordered for the next day. Deb was told that she had been diagnosed with AML (Acute Myeloid Leukaemia). It was serious.

As the testing progressed, her doctor realized that she also had a “Chromosome 7 Abnormality” which most likely developed following the heavy chemotherapy she received back in 1998. The intense chemo treatment had saved her life but forever altered her body.  The fact remained that now she had leukemia and required immediate treatment. The doctor advised her to check into the hospital that same day so that she could start a week of chemo in preparation for a stem cell transplant. They would start looking for a bone marrow donor immediately.

WeCanICan - World Cancer Day - Beat Cancer With Cord Blood - Deb Martell

Deb Martell: Two-time Cancer Survivor – #WeCanICan: Beat Cancer with Cord Blood

Deb immediately thought of her kids, “What? . . . but I can’t. Not today. I have to pick up my kids, make arrangements, I can’t just drop everything and start chemo.” Yes, the realities of motherhood often do not line up with the realities of the medical world. Deb did her best.

She quickly organized the necessary logistics for her children and made calls out to everyone to see if they could be a possible bone marrow donor. Everyone stepped into action. A network of family and friends was set up on Caring Bridge. Deb started chemo that weekend.

Deb’s doctors St. Luke’s Hospital in Milwaukee had hoped that her brother would be a possible match for a bone marrow stem cell transplant. However, the criteria for a bone marrow transplant are strict and sadly he was not a match. Was there another option? Deb was desperate.

A hero emerged. . . Dr. Robert Taylor at St. Luke’s recommended she speak with a colleague of his who was doing exciting work using cord blood to fight cancer. This one conversation would save her life. Deb is grateful to this day that Dr. Taylor truly explored all options. He thought out of the box and put her in touch with Dr. Claudio Brunstein at the University of Minnesota – Fairview Hospital.

Deb met with Dr. Brunstein and the decision was made that a cord blood stem cell transplant would be her best hope for survival. The matching process would be easier than for bone marrow and hopefully they would only need one cord since she was considered a relatively small adult in terms of weight and height. The search began.

Deb proceeded with the chemo treatment and began to prepare her body for the transplant. She started to have numerous adverse reactions and issues with platelet transfusions because of the many antibodies in her system. The Blood Center of Wisconsin did an amazing job of finding the specific HLA matched platelets she needed.

Good news . . . Dr. Brunstein had found a cord blood donation that matched! Not only did it meet the basic criteria for matching, it exceeded it. The cord could have come from anywhere in the world but in Deb’s case it was found in the US which made logistics much easier. That donation turned out to be a 6 to 6 antigen match! Dr. Brunstein and his team also said that it was the largest cord blood collection they had ever seen. That meant that they would not need a second one. One would be enough!

Deb received her cord blood transplant on December 18th, 2007. She ended up staying in the hospital for a total of 36 days and then a local apartment for 3 months during which time she was separated from her family as they continued with school and work. However, her recovery progressed nicely. She did not suffer any problems with Graft versus Host Disease (another benefit of using cord blood instead of bone marrow). Her blood type changed from A+ to O+ and she developed an allergy to cashews. Overall, she made a quick recovery and her doctors were very impressed saying that she was an “exceptional cancer patient.”

Cancer survivor, mother of four, attends family wedding

Post cord blood transplant, Deb Martell attends a family wedding.

This past December, Deb celebrated her 9th birthday. Yes, it has been 9 years and she is cancer free! As you can imagine, Deb takes nothing for granted in life. She wakes up every morning and follows a routine filled with gratitude and healthy choices. “I thank God every morning for my very breath and the blessing it is to live another day. My day starts with prayer and thanksgiving and coffee with coconut oil and raw honey! Followed by my workout (usually),” she says.

Indeed, the experience has taught her and her family to be grateful for so much. Her fight against cancer has also influenced her kids in choices they have made. . . one becoming a lawyer, another a nurse. All of them are intent on making the world a better place. Deb and her family say now that they “don’t look at problems that other people see and give up. We try to learn from those problems.”

Thanks to cord blood, Deb was given another chance at life. Thanks to this valuable medical resource, she has been able to attend graduations, watch her kids blossom, enjoy the outdoors (love this photo of her kayaking!), work part-time . . . she is living and loving life!!

What is Deb’s advice to other cancer patients?

  • Be grateful. Take nothing for granted!
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle post-treatment. Deb keeps a non-toxic home as much as possible. Her goal every day is to protect and build her immune system. She eats gluten-free, corn-free, non-processed foods, . . . She stays health through choices that she makes daily.
  • One of her favorite rituals which she highly recommends is making a morning smoothie. Deb shared her recipe with us. Looks yummy!
Deb's Smoothie Recipe

1 cup organic spinach

1/2 an avocado

1 heaping T of coconut kefir spread (I get this locally so I’m not sure it’s available everywhere, but use something that has probiotics and live cultures.)

heaping T of LIVfit Superfood Blend or your choice of protein powder

1 small fairly unripe banana

1 cup organic frozen mixed berries

2 tp of cacao powder

8 oz of coconut water or filtered water

1 T of raw honey if you need more sweet

Blend and enjoy!

 

world cancer dayCord blood is an incredible medical resource. Since 1988, there have been more than 35,000 cord blood transplants worldwide.  Far from science-fiction, cord blood is currently used to treat over 80 diseases including sickle cell anemia, lymphoma and leukemia. Cord blood is also proving key for exciting research in regenerative medicine to potentially treating things like autism, spinal cord injury, cerebral palsy, diabetes. . .

Learn more about how cord blood is used to fight cancer by meeting others whose lives have been saved thanks to cord blood.  Discover the full #WeCanICan: Beat Cancer with Cord Blood series (in World Cancer Day).

Two Kids Fight Cancer & Cerebral Palsy with Cord Blood (as seen in USA Today)

Two Kids Fight Cancer & Cerebral Palsy with Cord Blood (as seen in USA Today)

dylan praskins cord blood recipient

Being a kid! 6 years after his cord blood transplant, Dylan is having fun.

For USA Today, Save the Cord Foundation was recently asked to speak about treatments using cord blood to treat cancer and cerebral palsy. We took this opportunity to introduce readers to two amazing young boys whose lives have been forever changed thanks to cord blood. Meet Dylan and Ashton.

Read the full article published in a special edition of USA Today, “Expecting Parents.”

Dylan Fought Leukemia and Won

Born in April 2009, Dylan Praskins was diagnosed with infant leukemia or ALL (Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia) at only 8 weeks old. We have followed Dylan’s story since he was diagnosed. Against incredible odds, he won his fight against cancer thanks to cord blood.

Dylan’s case demonstrates why public cord blood donation is so important.

Read more about Dylan here.

Diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, Ashton Said Good-Bye to his Wheelchair

Viacord Cord blood for cerebral palsy

Ashton was 6 weeks old when he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. The diagnosis was not expected but luckily, Ashton’s parents had saved his cord blood at birth. At the age of 5, Ashton received his own cord blood stem cells in a simple 20-minute transfusion. Signs of improvement quickly followed.

Learn more about private cord blood banking (or “family banking”).

 

Ashton’s story is not unique. Research using cord blood to treat cerebral palsy, autism, diabetes and more is advancing quickly. As a source of non-controversial stem cells, cord blood is at the forefront of regenerative medicine. Learn more about the science that is helping these two boys have a second chance at life.

Read the full article (as seen in USA Today) to learn more.

 

 

Join the Cord Blood Movement

Public and private cord blood banking are both important. At Save the Cord Foundation, we recognize that every family is different. For some, public banking provides a way for to help others and make use of a valuable resource which would otherwise be thrown away. For others, their family history or personal medical history may mean that private cord blood banking is a priority. Some parents don’t have a public banking option and so choose to privately store their child’s cord blood so that it is not thrown away simply as medical waste.

Regardless of your choice, one thing is clear. Even though cord blood is currently being used to treat over 80 different diseases, we are just starting to understand the potential of this fantastic medical resource. Saving cord blood is the ultimate in recycling. Join the #cordbloodmovement today. Tell a friend about Dylan and Ashton. Encourage them to learn more @SaveTheCord. Empower them with knowledge so that they can make the right choice for them. #SaveTheCord

Click here to get involved and spread the word.

Success! April 13th, 2017 – Arizona Cord Blood Conference

Success! April 13th, 2017 – Arizona Cord Blood Conference

UPDATE: This event was held April 13th, 2017. Not only was the conference sold-out, but many of the speakers have offered to return for future events. There were numerous doctors and nurses in attendance (CME credits were awarded for certain lectures). Many parents were also in the audience.  However, many of the most interesting questions came from local students who truly impressed everyone with their knowledge of cord blood stem cells.

Exciting things are happening in Arizona!  Get ready for the 2nd Annual Arizona Cord Blood Conference to be held on April 13th, 2017.  We are looking forward to hearing from a wide range of speakers who work in the industry and are leading cutting edge research in cellular therapies using cord blood.

For students interested in possible STEM careers, this conference will provide a unique opportunity to learn directly from those in the cord blood industry and discover new opportunities that are emerging thanks to exciting research and current uses for cord blood stem cells.

For health professionals, you will have the opportunity to meet with leading scientists in this field and understand how your practice could immediately have impact or benefit from cord blood collections. As a medical practitioner, you can also earn up to 6 hours CME credits at this free conference.

For hospital administrators and policy makers, this conference will be key to better understanding the current status of the cord blood industry and how we can work together to improve it.

CME credits - Arizona Cord Blood Conference 2017

Earn CME credits – Register Now

Meet cord blood recipients like Nathan Mumford, Dylan Praskins and Noah Swanson. . .

Meet Nathan and numerous cord blood experts at the. . .

ARIZONA Cord Blood Conference
Thursday, April 13th, 2017
8:00 AM – 5:00 PM MST

Desert Willow Conference Center
4340 East Cotton Center Boulevard
Phoenix, AZ 85040

PRE-REGISTER now for the 2017 Arizona Cord Blood Conference: April 13th, 2017 (more details to follow)

 

Exact program details will be announced shortly. Please check this page for updates.

 *   *   *   *   *

This event is sponsored by the Arizona Biomedical Research Commission in partnership with the UA College of Medicine-Phoenix, the Arizona Public Cord Blood Program and Save the Cord Foundation.

 

GUEST POST:  We are Having a Baby! A Father’s Advice on Cord Blood

GUEST POST: We are Having a Baby! A Father’s Advice on Cord Blood

When talking about cord blood, we must not forget the father’s opinion. He brings a unique perspective to the decision making process.  Save the Cord Foundation recently reached out to several fathers who, along with the rest of their family, agreed to save their baby’s cord blood. This is the first in a series of guest blog posts from fathers.

A longtime supporter of Save the Cord Foundation, Donald Hudspepth, father and General Manager at LifeForce Cryobanks, had some very good points to make on why dads everywhere should get more involved in supporting cord blood preservation. The following is his advice to future parents everywhere.

“We are having a baby!”  Along with “Yes, I’ll Marry you” and “I Do”, these are some of the most exciting (and scariest) words a guy can hear. Your mind races at breakneck speed to comprehend all the possibilities. But let me tell you, there is nothing better than holding your newborn and seeing that first smile! (They’ll tell you it’s just gas, but you’ll know the truth!) But now what? You’ve got another mouth to feed and someone to protect from this harsh, cruel world.

It’s never too early to start thinking about protecting or “taking care” of your children. Whether it’s starting a college fund or savings account, setting up simple life insurance, “baby-proofing” the house (there’s NO such thing!), or watching You-tube how-to videos, it’s never too early!

So, I would like to talk with you about something you and mom can do now, before the baby is born, to help protect and take care of your baby and family….umbilical cord blood banking. The blood remaining in the umbilical cord after the baby is born is rich in stem cells. These cells are the building blocks for the entire body, bones, muscles, blood, organs, everything. As such, they can be stored to be used at a later date to treat over 75 diseases.

Currently, cord blood stem cells are used as an alternative source to bone marrow to treat various leukemias, lymphomas, anemias, and enzyme deficiency diseases. Clinical trials are ongoing to look at using stem cells to treat most every major disease we can study. Things like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, stroke, cerebral palsy, diabetes, heart attack, spinal injury and the list goes on. These cells have a huge potential for treating tens of millions of people worldwide.

Now, is your one time to collect them. Save them from the medical waste trash and let them be the tiny miracles they were created to be. Private family banking is widely available and at a wide range of prices. Do your research and find a company that you are comfortable using. Call them and ask questions. Speak to your doctor about your family medical history to determine your future potential risks. Speak with each other to determine if you can financially add stem cell banking to your budget (many companies offer long term financing options). Knowledge is key.

But, I ask, from one parent to another, please, please, please consider your options. Private banking admittedly is not for everyone. But, you can also donate the cord blood to be used to help treat anyone in the world in need of a stem cell transplant. Either way, it doesn’t end up in the hospital trash can. You are about to begin the most significant part of your life as you raise and care for your newborn. As with everything else you will do, knowledge of your options, doing research to understand them, and discussions with your partner will guide you to a successful outcome.

Congratulations on your pregnancy! I wish you all the best of luck and a most happy and enjoyable life together surrounded by love!

~ Donald Hudspeth

Give life twice. #SAVETHECORD.


Learn more about family banking at LifeForce Cryobanks or discover how you can donate your baby’s cord blood via the popular “Cord for Life” program sponsored by LifeForce Cryobanks.

cord-for-life  LifeForce Cryobanks

About Save the Cord Foundation

Save the Cord Foundation, a 501c3 non-profit organization, was established to promote awareness of the life-saving benefits of cord blood based on unbiased and factual information. The Foundation educates parents, health professionals and the general public about the need to preserve this valuable medical resource while providing information on both public cord blood donation programs and family cord blood banks worldwide.

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