In 1998, Keri Tawney’s father underwent treatment for multiple myeloma—a type of blood cancer—at the University of Washington Medical Center. Regular blood transfusions were an integral part of his treatment. Although he was a candidate for a stem cell transplant from his own bone marrow, Keri’s dad passed away before he was able to complete this treatment.
Keri decided to honor her father’s memory by donating the umbilical cord blood of her daughter, Kassie, born in 2006. Like bone marrow, umbilical cord blood contains stem cells that can help doctors treat myeloma, leukemia and other cancers and immune disorders.
After cord blood is collected it is processed, “typed,” tested and entered into the national transplantation registry. The units are available to patients in need both in the U.S. and around the world.
Keri recollects, “Donating my daughter’s cord blood gave me a sense of closure about my dad’s passing. Though it couldn’t help him, I knew Kassie’s cord blood could make a life-changing difference for someone else.”
That’s exactly what happened.
In April 2010, Keri received a call from Bloodworks Northwest’s Cord Blood Program: Kassie’s cord blood was a match for a similar-age boy with leukemia. After hearing the news, Keri was overwhelmed with emotion.
In a personal blog post about the receiving the call, Keri wrote: “The recipient family’s] road ahead is long, and the courage and will power required of this little boy will be beyond what most of us can ever comprehend, but I am so grateful that he has this chance, and so grateful to the Bloodworks Northwest cord blood donation program.”
Kassie isn’t old enough to know how her cord blood donation had a lifesaving impact. But Keri plans to tell her when she is old enough to understand. “She has an empathetic heart, and it will surely be meaningful to her,” Keri says.
Unfortunately, despite its lifesaving potential cord blood is often discarded. New moms don’t know about the opportunity to donate. BloodworksNW is working hard to spread the word and to make the process available in all maternity wards. Donating cord blood: one new life, and another life saved. What could be more powerful than that?
BloodworksNW created the first umbilical cord-blood program in the Pacific Northwest in 1997. Today we partner with 12 hospitals in Washington State, Oregon, and Hawaii. growing partnerships hold the promise of saving more lives, raising awareness about cord blood donation and increasing the availability of stem cells for transplantation. Find out more at BloodworksNW.org/cordblood.