Aside from marking a new addition to the Sandy Springs resident’s family, mother and child’s first meeting will also result in the donation of the latter’s umbilical cord blood — a potentially lifesaving treatment option for patients battling a litany of diseases.
Patel and her husband, Rohit, opted to do the same after the birth of son Shaan two years ago.
“By donating, instead of the cord blood being put in a medical waste basket, we are potentially saving somebody’s life,” she said. “My son could have very possibly helped someone else since his first day and not even know about it.”
In a stroke of coincidence, the Patel’s next contribution to the world at large — a daughter this time — is set to arrive during the time of year when donation advocates like her parents are out in full force trying to spread the word that July is National Cord Blood Awareness Month.
“Ordinary people have the opportunity to make an extraordinary impact,” said Michael Boo, chief strategy officer for Be The Match, a Minneapolis, Minn.-based national nonprofit advocating for cord blood and bone marrow donation. “That’s why it’s so important we educate the public about cord blood donation and the need for more donors — especially from minority families.”
There is a particular need for donated cord blood from babies whose parents, like the Asian-Indian-American Patels, are of diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds. Patients are more likely to find a matching cord blood unit from someone who shares their heritage.
The overall message during Awareness Month: The medical benefits know no limits as the blood can aid those stricken with leukemia, lymphoma and more than 80 other diseases. And, since publicly donating it is free of charge and poses no harm to the mother or the newborn, the risks are nil. “Like they say, knowledge is power, right?” Nehal Patel said. “The first time we didn’t know what the process was … but after figuring out how it didn’t even affect me or my delivery or the baby and it was just something that was done by the [obstetrician] — all I had to do was paperwork.”
Research indicates that only about one-quarter of Americans are even aware of the option to donate to a public cord blood bank. The blood, typically discarded after a baby’s birth, is a non-controversial source of stem cells that can be used to aid aforementioned patients in need of a transplant. Only 27 percent of respondents in a survey commissioned by Be The Match were aware of the donation process and its lifesaving potential. The nonprofit noted the percentage of willing donors increased to 66 percent when informed of those aspects.