Like medical success stories often are, Amanda Canale’s is quite inspiring. But Amanda’s is unique in its takeaway: Newborn umbilical cords are not simply medical waste to be disposed of. They can save lives.
Amanda was born with a chronic blood disorder that caused her to spend most of her early childhood in the hospital. Then, six years ago at age 23, she learned she had developed leukemia, which was only complicated by her genetic condition.
Amanda’s doctor told her mother she had only two weeks to live, so the Watauga resident was referred to Edward Agura, M.D., an oncologist and the medical director of bone marrow transplant at Baylor Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center at Dallas, to receive a lifesaving procedure.
However, none of her relatives and friends who were tested as potential bone marrow donors were a match.
According to the National Marrow Donor Program ®, only about 30 percent of patients in need of a bone marrow transplant have a matching donor within their family. The other 70 percent rely on finding an unrelated donor or umbilical cord blood unit through the Be The Match® registry.
When none of Amanda’s network proved to be a match, they began to consider doing a cord blood infusion, a procedure that would turn out to be a first for Baylor Health Care System.
Cord blood, which is found in the umbilical cord and placenta, is rich in stem cells. It is used in many treatments for a variety of diseases, including cancer.
Within days, they found donated cord blood that was a 99.9 percent match, and Amanda received the transplant seven years ago this summer.
Not only did it cure her leukemia, but it also cured her genetic blood disorder.
Amanda wants new mothers to know that if they don’t pay to bank their babies’ cord blood for personal use, they can donate it free of charge.
“There are so many lives out there they can save,” said the young woman who will never be able to learn who her donor was. She said if she could, she would tell her, “Thank you for giving me my quality of life back.”
“My life wouldn’t be the same without her.”
To register to donate umbilical cord blood, bone marrow or organs, contact Baylor’s Be the Match program at (214) 820-8165. Read more about Amanda’s experience in the Sept. 24 edition of The Dallas Morning News (subscription required).