The Royal Free Hospital’s lifesaving cord blood collection programme will be officially launched on 25 January.
The programme, which takes place in the Sue Harris Cord Blood Collection Centre funded by the Sue Harris Trust, allows mothers to donate their umbilical cord and placenta after birth, which can then be used in lifesaving transplants for people with blood cancer.
Mai Buckley, director of midwifery and gynaecology at the Royal Free, said: “When a baby is born, its umbilical cord and placenta are usually thrown away as clinical waste. But this ‘waste’ could actually save someone’s life.
“We know many mums would like the choice of donating cord blood and we’re delighted that we can now give parents this option. We’re only the eleventh NHS hospital in the country to offer this service.
“We hope that this initiative will save many lives and we offer our thanks to Anthony Nolan and the Sue Harris Bone Marrow Trust for making it possible.”
The Anthony Nolan register currently has over 430,000 potential stem cell donors, but the we can still only find a match for half the people who come to them in need of transplant.
Guy Parkes, Head of Special Projects at Anthony Nolan, adds, “If we had a cord blood bank of even 50,000 units, we could meet 80% of transplant requests. It’s so important to give parents the option of donating their cord blood, rather than simply throwing away this potentially lifesaving resource.
“We chose the Royal Free because we already have excellent links with the hospital and it looks after mums giving birth from a wide range of ethnicities. It can be much more difficult to find a matching donor for someone from an ethnic minority and we hope that cord donations from the Royal Free will go some way to meeting this need, which will be a huge benefit for our cord blood collection programme.”
Lionel Salama of the Sue Harris Trust added: “The Sue Harris Trust is extremely pleased to be working with Anthony Nolan and funding the establishment of the new Sue Harris Cord Blood Collection Centre at the Royal Free Hampstead. The collections that will be facilitated here in Sue’s memory will help to save hundreds of lives, as well as providing valuable stem cells for medical research into the causes and cures of a range of serious diseases affecting an even greater number of people.”
Rubi Pabani was one of the first women to donate cord blood at the Royal Free, when she gave birth to her son Aydin on 4 January.
The 33-year-old, from Oakleigh Park, Barnet, said: “I saw a leaflet about the programme at one of my antenatal appointments and I knew it was something I wanted to do straight away – it doesn’t interfere in any way with the birth, it takes no time at all and yet it could save someone’s life.”
Rubi, who is also mum to Iman, two, added: “It makes you feel so good – not only had I given birth to my little baby boy but I’d also potentially saved someone’s life as well. It’s such a worthwhile cause and I would encourage all mums to consider it.”
Jo Hemesley (pictured) is just one person whose life was saved because someone donated their cord blood. The 41-year-old, who lives and works in London, said: “I’m so grateful to the mother who gave me the opportunity to live again. And I’m grateful to Anthony Nolan and cord blood collection sites like the Royal Free, for collecting cord blood which will give so many people who can’t find an adult donor the chance of life.”
Find out more abour cord blood donation.