An umbilical cord blood donation from one Quebec brother to another has made Canadian history as the first stem-cell transplant among siblings from a public umbilical cord bank.
When her son Nathis was born, Comeau donated the baby’s umbilical cord to the Hema-Quebec Public Cord Blood Bank, a Montreal lab specializing in collecting, freezing and storing umbilical cord blood for stem-cell transplants. It’s one of about 40 public umbilical cord blood banks in the world.
Little did Comeau know that four years down the road, the decision would help save the life of her third-born child.
Soon after her next son, Nolan, was born, the baby began breaking out into strange lumps and rashes. Doctors diagnosed him with Acute Myeloid Leukemia, a rare blood cancer, and ushered him into four rounds of chemotherapy.
“His chances were very, very low,” Comeau said. “We were given hope, but we weren’t given very much.”
When doctors began exploring the idea of finding a stem-cell transplant, a Hail Mary effort that could offer Nolan the chance of a healthy new blood system, they were led to the public bank. Of 10,000 stem cell samples, there was one perfect match.
The Hema-Quebec Public Cord Blood Bank collects umbilical cord blood from mothers who sign up through partner hospitals. Blood is drawn from the umbilical cord after it is cut. If not collected, umbilical cords are typically considered biomedical waste and thrown away.
Umbilical cord blood can last up to 10 years when frozen, according to the blood bank.
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