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Ft. Bragg to Offer New Mothers Opportunity to Donate Cord Blood

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Duke Health News 919-660-1306

Medical leaders at Ft. Bragg, N.C., announced today that they have begun to offer cord blood donation services for mothers who choose to have their babies at the Womack Army Medical Center (WAMC).

Ft. Bragg is the largest army installation in the world and first military base in the country to offer such services on such a large scale.

The program is a partnership with the Carolinas Cord Blood Bank based at Duke University Medical Center, a public cord blood bank that is part of the National Marrow Donor Program's (NMDP) network of public cord blood banks.

Ft. Bragg is home to about 10 percent of all the active duty army forces in the country. Womack Army Medical Center delivers approximately 270 babies per month, or just over 3,000 births per year.

"Years ago, we used to throw cord blood away. But today we realize that what we once threw out can save someone's life," said Dr. Sammy Choi, director of research at WAMC. "We at Ft. Bragg and the Womack Army Medical Center are proud to be leading this effort."

Cord blood refers to blood collected from the umbilical cord and placenta after a baby is born. It is rich in blood-forming cells that can be used in transplants to save lives of patients with leukemia, lymphoma, certain rare inherited disorders, and other diseases.

"Publicly donated cord blood units at Womack Army Medical Center will contribute to our goal of expanding the national inventory of cord blood units," said Michael Boo, chief strategy officer at the NMDP.

"By growing the number and diversity of cord blood units, more patients will be able to receive the transplant they need."

Choi says cord blood donation is voluntary, confidential, and available at no cost to the donors. Under the program, expectant mothers will receive information about the service several weeks before their scheduled due date so they can learn if they are eligible to donate and make their decision.

Educators and trained collectors from Duke will be available at WAMC from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday to meet with the expectant mothers.

Donating cord blood is a safe procedure that will not harm the mother or her baby in any way. The blood is collected after the baby is born. Then, it is delivered to Carolinas Cord Blood Bank where it is tested, frozen, stored, and made available to patients who need a cord blood or marrow transplant through the national Marrow Donor Program's Be The Match Registry®.

Robert Baitty, director of the blood stem cell transplantation program at the Health Resources and Services Administration said, "I am pleased with the partnership between the Womack Army Medical Center and the Carolinas Cord Blood Bank. This collaboration will ultimately add more life-saving cord blood units to the National Cord Blood Inventory."

Joanne Kurtzberg, MD, the Susan Dees Professor of Pediatrics and the Chief of the Division of Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplantation at Duke, says she is especially pleased that Womack is participating in cord blood donor services because Ft. Bragg's population reflects rich racial and ethnic diversity.

"Patients tend to do better when they are matched with tissue from someone who shares their racial or ethnic heritage. Public cord blood banks are always in special need of blood from African-American, Asian, American Indian, and Hispanic donors because about a third of all transplants are among patients belonging to those groups."

Carolinas Cord Blood Bank opened in 1998 and works with six other hospitals across the state in coordinating cord blood donation. Current collection hospitals include Duke Hospital, Durham Regional Hospital, UNC Hospital, Rex Hospital, Western Wake Hospital, and Women's Hospital of Greensboro.

The inauguration of the new program is yet another major step toward expanding cord blood services in North Carolina. Under new legislation sponsored by State Rep. Margaret Dickson of Fayetteville and approved by Gov. Beverly Perdue, women will soon be able to find cord blood donation information on a website hosted by the state Department of Health and Human Services. The website is expected to be available Jan. 1, 2010.

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