When staff come through the door at LifeCord, there is no telling which cord blood unit will be the answer to a prayer for a patient battling cancer or another serious illness, so each one is treated like someone’s life depends on it.
It all begins when a mom makes the decision to donate, and the hard-working team in the delivery room take those precious minutes to collect blood from the baby’s umbilical cord after delivery. Within hours, those cell-phone-sized units are headed to LifeCord in Gainesville. They come by plane, cross-town by car and even by bus. Once they arrive, the race to complete testing, processing and preservation is underway.
The first step is assessment. The collection size matters, and bigger is better. Each unit must be weighed and those that are big enough to one day help a patient head into the clean room for processing.
In the clean room, the stem cells are separated from the rest of the unit, and a tiny sample of those cells heads across the hall to the laboratory. There the technicians test the cells to ensure they can develop and multiply and do the lifesaving work to help
a patient grow new, healthy functioning bone marrow.
As the tests continue in the lab, that unit of cells is prepared for a long, cold nap – 321 degrees below zero cold – stored in a special cryopreservation tank filled with liquid nitrogen. From the time it is collected to the time it’s preserved is less than 48 hours. Then the donation can rest for years, until a patient somewhere in the world needs it. When it’s needed, the unit is pulled from the storage tank, placed in a special mushroom-shaped container, and its lifesaving journey continues.
To date, LifeCord units have been used for nearly 200 transplants in 29 states and 16 countries.