TRAVERSE CITY – A local woman and her daughter are headed to Washington, D.C. to ask for federal funding for a medical program that helped them save a life.
Carrie Smith donated blood from her umbilical cord when she had her daughter Ella in 2004.
The blood, high in stem cells, was used in 2012 to treat a 58-year-old man with leukemia. The donation was made through Be The Match, an organization that collects cord blood donations and registers potential bone marrow donors.
“We’re advocating for the support and funding from the government to keep this going and keep the money coming in so they can continue the program,” said Carrie Smith. “I really want to get the message out to get donations, but unless they have the funding they won’t be able to keep it going.”
Be The Match lost $3 million during the federal sequestration when funding was cut for C.W. Bill Young Cell Transplantation Program and the National Cord Blood Inventory, two organizations that support Be The Match. The lost money would have been enough to sign up 20,000 potential bone marrow donors and collect 1,000 cord blood units.
Carrie and Ella will be part of a Be The Match team that meets with legislators to lobby for program support.
“We’re hoping for continued funding so we can maintain, in the least, or grow the registry,” said Ryan Heinhuis, a marrow recruitment specialist with Michigan Blood, a Be The Match partner organization.
Carrie also wants to spread awareness of the cord blood donation program, in which mothers sign up as donors Michigan Blood, then take a donation kit to the hospital for delivery. The umbilical cord is collected after the birth.
“For me as the mother it was such an easy process I don’t know why everyone wouldn’t do it,” Carrie said. “You’re not hurting yourself or the baby. It takes five minutes at most and there’s such an amazing benefit.”
Michigan Blood collects about 90 donations a year, and since 1999 provided 166 cord blood donations to transplant patients, according to Amy Lambert, manager of Michigan Blood’s cord blood bank.
“If you don’t donate it or take it for your own personal use, it gets discarded, it gets thrown in the trash,” Lambert said. “We’d rather have it donated than thrown in the trash.”