NBA legend and beloved 76er Julius “Dr. J” Erving thanked Christiana Care Health System for providing for new mothers a safe, effective way to donate their babies’ cord blood during a special event Wednesday at the John H. Ammon Medical Education Center.
At age 19, while a freshman at UMass, Erving lost his 16-year-old brother Marvin to lupus erythematosus, a systemic autoimmune disease. When Erving was 34, his older sister Alexis died of colon cancer at age 37. In 2005, Erving successfully lobbied Congress to pass a bill that increased stem cell research by using umbilical cord blood.
“It is exciting for me to lend myself to this cause, and it is specifically exciting for me to come to Christiana Care,” Erving said. “From what I understand, most of the babies born in Delaware are delivered by Christiana Care, so we’re with the right group today, and we’re with the right team.”
Through Christiana Care’s new partnership with CORD:USE, new mothers now have the option to donate their newborn’s cord blood to the nation’s foremost cord-blood banking organization. Although 4 million births take place in the United States each year, cord blood is stored in only 5 percent of those births.
“Christiana Care entered this partnership with CORD:USE because we have a unique opportunity to tremendously increase the number of mothers who are able to donate their cord blood,” said Janice Nevin, M.D., MPH, chief medical officer for Christiana Care. “At Christiana Care, it is our responsibility to help increase the rate of cord blood storage through our innovative systems of care and through the innovative system of storage that CORD:USE uses.”
Through the partnership, Christiana Care educates new mothers about their options of cord blood donation and family banking, and coordinates donations. CORD:USE collects blood from within the donated umbilical cord — the part of the placenta that transports nutrients to a fetus — after a baby is born. CORD:USE prepares the cord blood and stores the stem cells that eventually can be harnessed to treat diseases that require stem cell transplants. This cord blood is used for treating patients with life-threatening diseases and in biomedical research.
“Not so many years ago, the placenta and umbilical cord were discarded and incinerated, with little recognition that there was lifesaving potential from this byproduct of pregnancy,” said Richard Derman, M.D., MPH, Marie E. Pinizzotto, M.D., endowed chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Christiana Care. “By simply removing blood from the umbilical vein, we are now able to honor the wishes of our new mothers and provide the medical field with innovative solutions to help find treatments for many diseases thought to be incurable.”
To date, more than 70 different diseases are currently treated with stem cells from umbilical cord blood, including leukemia, lymphoma and sickle-cell anemia. Christiana Care is the only hospital system in the Philadelphia area that partners with CORD:USE. Some of the cord blood units collected by CORD:USE will be available for research studies that are intended to help improve patient outcomes through The National Cord Blood Inventory.
“Christiana Care is setting an example for other hospitals nationally in the wider effort to help treat and cure diseases through the use of life-saving cord blood,” Lt. Gov. Matt Denn said.
The model developed between Christiana Care and CORD:USE is a unique, homegrown effort. Christiana Care Labor and Delivery nurses will educate expectant mothers about cord-blood banking while they are in labor, and Christiana Care obstetricians and nurse midwives will collect the cord blood using CORD:USE’s highly sophisticated collection kits. Kim Petrella, RN, a Labor and Delivery nurse at Christiana Hospital, and two research technicians process the cord blood, which is then shipped either for research or public banking.
“At Christiana Care’s pace, it is on its way to becoming the No. 1 hospital system that is saving lives in this country through cord blood collection,” said Ed Guindi, M.D., CEO of CORD:USE. “It is an honor to work with Christiana Care, a health system that is nationally recognized as a top-tier hospital, as well as a highly-regarded research center.”