Actress and former EastEnder Kellie Shirley is intending to donate her umbilical cord blood to charity when she gives birth to twins this summer.
Kellie has signed up to donate the cord blood to Anthony Nolan, in the hope that it could help save the life of a patient in desperate need of a stem cell transplant.
Kellie, who played Carly Wicks in EastEnders, is due to give birth at King’s College Hospital, in South East London, in early August.
She said: “It is really easy to donate the cord blood and it seems ridiculous that something so valuable could be thrown away.
“Donating it doesn’t hurt you, it doesn’t hurt your baby and it could save a life. It's a no-brainer."
Umbilical cord blood is rich in stem cells which can be used in stem cell transplants for people with blood cancer and blood disorders.
Cord blood can be a fantastic option for people who need an urgent stem cell transplants as it is available immediately because it is collected and then stored, unlike donations from adult donors which are only harvested when they are needed.
A cord blood transplant can also offer a chance of life to patients who are not able to find a matching adult donor.
Anthony Nolan collects cord blood from willing new mothers who sign up at four hospitals – King’s College Hospital London, Leicester Royal Infirmary, Leicester General Hospital and St Mary’s, Manchester.
When a woman who is giving birth at one of these hospitals agrees to donate her cord blood, a specially trained midwife enters the delivery room shortly after the birth and collects the cord and placenta. It's as simple as that.
These are then taken to a different room where the blood in the cord and placenta is harvested.
It is then sent to Anthony Nolan’s Cell Therapy Centre in Nottingham where it is frozen and stored for use in stem cell transplants.
To find out more and to sign up, visit www.anthonynolan.org/cord
Kellie, who decided not to find out the sex of her babies, has supported Anthony Nolan since being asked to run the London Marathon for the blood cancer charity in 2008.
She was asked to attend an event a couple of years ago at which Miriam González Durántez (Nick Clegg’s wife) spoke about the benefits of cord blood donation.
Kellie said: “Miriam was inspiring and she spoke so passionately about cord blood donations, her talk had a really profound effect on me.
“When I found out I was pregnant, I remembered this talk and decided that I wanted to donate.
“I was initially meant to have the babies at a different hospital although I changed to King’s so that I had the chance to donate the cords.”
Kellie can currently be seen in new Sky drama series 'The Marriage of Reason & Squalor' opposite Rhys Ifans. She is also starring in indie film 'Everyone’s Going To Die' which comes out on June 26.
She is now encouraging other pregnant women in South East London, Leicester and Manchester to donate their cords so they too can save lives.
However, she also wants people to know that there are other ways in which they can help.
People aged between 16 and 30 can join our stem cell donor register by clicking on the button below.
Joining just involves filling in a simple form and then providing a saliva sample in the post.