STEM CELL BANKING: OUR JOURNEY

0 Posted by - June 13, 2018 - LIFESTYLE

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Here I sit at 36 weeks pregnant and as a new Mum-to-be there are so many things to think about. The reality that I will be responsible for another human being in a month’s time is overwhelming, exciting but overwhelming. And let’s not sugar coat things – it’s an expensive journey so when my husband and I first talked about having our baby’s stem cells stored, the idea of spending over R20 000 on something that we may never use seemed unnecessary. If I am completely honest, I also didn’t know much about it – the how, why and when (let’s just say I’m right brain dominant) but after chatting to a few friends I actually decided to look a little further into Stem Cell banking.

 

I am a bit of a control freak and this pregnancy has taught me that I certainly can’t control everything but let me tell you, if I can protect my little one from a condition that requires stem cells, at least I have safeguarded his or her future as best as we can. So, in the months leading up to now my husband and I made the decision to bank our baba’s umbilical cord blood and cord tissue stem cells with Netcells, Next Biosciences’ umbilical cord stem cell banking service.

 

What has been really important for me in sharing my pregnancy journey online is to in someway inspire, educate and empower other mums or mums to be so I hope that by me breaking it down 101 style here you will perhaps be enlightened or educated and share in our journey!

 

THE QUESTIONS WE ASKED AND THE NEED-TO-KNOWS

  • What if my child does get a disease that is treatable with stem cells?
  • What if in 10 years’ time, science has advanced to such a point that stem cells can be used to treat so much more. Already scientists are investigating the use of cord blood to treat Cerebral Palsy, Autism and Type-1 Diabetes, stroke and hearing loss.
  • Cord blood stem cells are currently being used to treat nearly 80 blood-related disorders and immune system conditions such as leukaemia, anaemia and immune deficiency diseases.
  • If you ever need stem cells, the chance of finding a compatible donor/match through the bone marrow registry is 1 in 100 000.
  • The cord blood is a100% match for your baby and a 25% chance of it being a match for a sibling. It is important to store for all your children as the genetically based blood disorders, like many leukaemia’s will require a stem cell transplant from a sibling as the child’s own stem cells can not be used.

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WHAT ARE STEM CELLS?

These are the original building blocks of life; they differentiate into all the specialised cells that make up the human body (skin, blood cells, muscle, bones, nerves etc)

WHERE ARE THEY FOUND?

The babies umbilical cord is usually discarded as medical waste but now we have the option to collect the stem cells at birth (these stem cells are biologically younger than cells collected later in life and have a better regenerative potential).

WHAT IS CORD BLOOD?

It’s rich in blood forming stem cells that are used to treat over 80 blood related diseases. It’s a valuable source of stem cells for regeneration of bone marrow and can be used to replace diseased cells with healthy new cells.

 

WHAT IS CORD TISSUE?

The cord tissue contains stem cells that give rise to the connective tissues in the body i.e. – skin, muscle, bone, cartilage, nerve, fat. These stems cells are being employed in research environments for a wide variety of aesthetic and medical conditions. Current trials include skin regeneration in wound healing and anti-ageing treatments, neurology, orthopaedics, sports injury, cardiology, auto-immune diseases and many other areas.

OUR EXPERIENCE SO FAR

It’s a big decision to make and an investment into our baba’s future so we did our homework properly. The amazing thing about Netcells is the personal connection they make and the time they invest in you. We met with a Netcells consultant, Keleigh over a cup of tea at the Mount Nelson for her to share everything we need to know about the process  and educate us. she took us through the Netcells collection kit, which contains all the documentation, booklets and the actual stem cell collection kit, which you will need to take with you to the hospital. The process is super simple – you hand it over to your Gynaecologist or midwife at the birth and as soon as the baba is born they will collect the blood and cord tissue using the components in the collection kit. My husband will then contact Keleigh who will arrange for the courier to collect the sample directly from our hospital room and it will be couriered to the Netcells laboratory in Johannesburg for processing. Once processed, the stem cells are cryogenically frozen and stored in large specialized tanks where they remain in these tanks until they are needed (which we pray we will never need).

We have also decided to have the Newborn screening test done which tests for selected genetic and metabolic diseases that are often not apparent at birth. Again, it’s a simple process where a few drops of blood will be taken from our baby’s heel and tested. If anything were to be detected, steps can be taken as early as possible!

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SO, HOW DO WE GET THE SHOW ON THE ROAD?

The cost:

• Discovery Health Members receive up to a 25% discount off the banking fee (depending on the payment plan selected).

• When you bank with Netcells, you can pay the registration fee upfront and then the balance over 60 months which really does make it more affordable. To give you an idea of pricing – for example if you are banking both blood and cord tissue for your baby, storing for 20 years and paying over 60 months (PLUS a Discovery discount of 10%, the monthly payment contribution would be R489.64. There are also options to pay once off, over 12 or 24 months.

• Pricing available here.

• Book a one-on-one consultation with a consultant so you can ask the questions, spend time understanding the process here.

• If you are based in Johannesburg / Pretoria, visiting the Netcells Lab on one of their open days is a must – it’s an opportunity to visit the facility, be taken on a tour and connect with the team. E-mail rsvp@nextbio.co.za to confirm your attendance at one of the following lab open days between 9am – 11:30am:

    • Saturday 4 August 2018
    • Saturday 10 November 2018

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In my opinion there isn’t a better gift one could get. Netcells offers the option of funding stem cell banking through an online gift registry.

Family and friends can contribute towards the cost of banking your baby’s stem cells. Kids outgrow clothes and toys but this gift is truly life changing. Check it out here.

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Images: Supplied, Netcells and courtesy of Brandslut

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