Cord blood donation: the McFadden family’s story

July 22, 2015 at 11:15 am

McFaddensLike many expectant parents, Iris and Joel McFadden were anxious to learn everything they could before the birth of their first child, including the decision to donate umbilical cord blood.

Iris recalls,

When we first got pregnant we looked at all the websites and there’s a lot of advertising for private cord banking. It seemed like a good idea, but we don’t have the money to bank, plus the yearly fees. I thought, ‘I wonder if they do donations!’

The Gig Harbor couple learned that BloodworksNW’s cord blood program was free for donor families to participate in and they could make all the arrangements in advance with their hospital. They liked that cord blood donation benefited research and kids with leukemia — “it could help anyone: family, neighbors, friends or someone we don’t know,” adds Joel.

The McFaddens wondered what might happen if their daughter ever need her own cord blood for a transplant, but read that a child’s own cord blood is often not even suitable for their own use because the genetic mutations that cause many disorders are present in it. They agreed that donating cord blood was the right decision for their family and would help others who are looking for a match.

Cord blood collection started at Multicare Tacoma General Hospital not long before the McFadden’s daughter, Marina, was born in February 2015, making donation available for the first time in the South Puget Sound; Marina was among the first donors at the hospital.

Iris was impressed by how the actual donation didn’t interfere with her family’s bonding following delivery.

We held our baby, and I guess they were just doing it on the side. If we didn’t know we were donating, we wouldn’t have noticed it — we were so happy she was healthy and safe.


Iris, a flight attendant, and Joel, a firefighter in Pierce County, have been enjoying their time with Marina, now 4 1/2 months.

She’s really mellow. We’ve been really blessed to have a healthy baby girl. She’s such a ham – if we go anywhere, she’s looking at everyone and smiles at them.

Iris and Joel would encourage everyone to consider cord blood donation. Says Iris,

If it can save someone’s life — something we weren’t going to use anyways — I’m glad it would go to someone who could use it.

Hopefully it changes someone’s life!

Families interested in donating cord blood should contact BloodworksNW Cord Blood Program staff about how to make arrangements. General information about the Cord Blood Program and enrollment can be found at:

New Year’s baby gives new hope for patients in need

February 13, 2015 at 11:32 am

Don Jr.

Don Browne Jr. surprised everyone by being born nine days early at Madigan Army Medical Center — at the stroke of midnight on January 1, 2015, making him the first baby born in Western Washington this year.

It was definitely exciting,” recalls mom Angela. “I just remembered they started to do the countdown when it was midnight, and right at 12 he was here and all I could hear in the background was ‘happy new year!’

Don Jr.’s birth is doubly special because Angela, who served our country in Afghanistan, and her husband Don made the decision to donate his cord blood after a Puget Sound Blood Center Cord Blood Progam representative visited Angela’s pregnant soldiers class at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

“I had always heard about cord blood donation, but she gave us a lot of information.”

Donated cord blood, traditionally discarded, can be used to help patients with a number of conditions, including anemias, bone marrow failure, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, immune deficiency disorders, and leukemia. For many patients, a cord blood transplant is their only hope for a cure.

Angela has two older sons, ages 7 and 14, and this information really resonated with her as a mother. “Being able to go to another person or the blood bank and find help that you need could take the relief off of any parent.”

Each time I’ve learned something new, and this being my last child, you want to do everything that you possibly can — this was just another thing I wanted to do.

Even with Don Jr.’s surprise arrival, the donation process was easy — Angela just brought the paperwork with her to the hospital and barely noticed the donation. “They did it right after I had my son, so it was a quick process.”

At one month old, Don Jr. is too young to understand that his birth may mean a chance at life for someone else, but she knows he will be proud. “Both of my other sons are very caring kids — it’s amazing how caring they are — so I’m pretty sure he will be the same way and make sure they grow up wanting to help people.”

I understand a lot of people might be hesitant, but just knowing that this could help anyone, that’s what should drive you and take away the anxiety. You’re helping somebody, and possibly you could even help your own kids!

Learn more about cord blood donation at

Carl and Christy donated cord blood

October 7, 2014 at 11:05 am

Carl-Christy blog

Carl Field, a Practice Advisor Supervisor at UW Physicians, joined our YPA last fall and is a longtime whole blood and platelet donor. He and his wife, Christy, who works in development at the Nordic Heritage Museum, recently welcomed a new addition to their family. 

Carl says,

Our son Carl [V] was born on Saturday, August 2. He was a healthy 9 lbs 2 oz and 21.5 inches long. Baby Carl is such a joy for us and we are enjoying our new status as a family of three!

After learning about PSBC’s Cord Blood program over the last year, we really wanted to have his cord blood donated if possible. Signing up for the program was easy, and we were excited to share our plan with other people. We became known as the couple that wanted their cord blood donated.

When the big moment came, the doctors and nurses followed the protocol and collected a good dosage of his cord blood that hopefully will benefit someone someday. We’re proud to start him on the path of a lifetime blood donor and hope this donation counts towards his pint count!

Adds Christy,

We were so excited to participate in this program, and it was wonderful to receive so much affirmation from the care team at Swedish for it too.

Stem cells from cord blood can be used to help patients with anemias, bone marrow failure, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Immune deficiency disorders, and leukemia. Cord blood collection is a completely painless procedure that doesn’t interfere with the birth or bonding following the delivery, and it’s free to participate. Learn more at

Donating Cord Blood: Two Lives For One

February 17, 2014 at 8:32 am

Kristina and Evan in the snow

Two months ago I gave birth to my son Evan. While bringing him into the world, my family was able to help save someone else’s life, too.

I have worked for Puget Sound Blood Center in the development department for several years. I’ve been a longtime financial contributor and an even longer-time blood donor (10 gallons, in fact!).  So, when my husband and I found out I was pregnant, of course I was interested in donating our little one’s umbilical cord blood.

Why donate?

Umbilical cord blood can be used to treat and cure a number of blood cancers (e.g. leukemia) and other diseases, similar to a bone marrow transplant. Thanks to PSBC, Evan’s cord blood unit is stored and listed on a public registry. Whenever a patient somewhere in the world needs to find a suitable matching donor, doctors can search this registry for that person’s second chance at life. If Evan’s cord blood is matched to a patient somewhere in the world, it will be transported right away.

What’s the process like?

Signing up was easy! I was happy to fill out the paperwork to ensure hospital staff would collect Evan’s cord blood, rather than throw it out as medical waste.  The forms were a few pages long and similar to the survey I have to take whenever I donate blood. I just had to bring the paperwork with me to the hospital when I was going into labor and tell the medical staff that I wanted to donate.

My labor and delivery were unaffected by the collection. In fact, once my doctor placed my newborn son on my chest, I was wholly unaware of the cord blood collection.  My only reminder was the doctor’s jubilant, “We got it!” once the process was complete. While her proclamation wasn’t life altering at the time, I’m so proud that my family’s choice to donate can make a world of difference to another family in need.

What should you know about public umbilical cord blood donation?

  • The collection process is easy, painless, and free.
  • Your baby doesn’t need its cord blood after birth.  (In the event a child needs a blood stem cell transplant later in life, the donor baby’s cord blood is not a match.)
  • What is otherwise thrown away can save someone’s life!

Learn more about public umbilical cord blood donation at or by calling 206.292.1896.

A Day in the Life of a Cord Blood Unit

October 21, 2013 at 11:21 am


October, 2013 marks the 25th anniversary of the first cord blood transplant. The stem cells in cord blood are used to treat patients with anemias, bone marrow failure, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, immune deficiency disorders, leukemia, and more.

Have you ever wondered what happens to cord blood after it’s collected? Here is the process the cord blood unit (CBU) undergoes once received at Puget Sound Blood Center. This process takes approximately six hours.

Unit Check-In

When a unit is received at the Blood Center, the receipt time is documented and it is assigned a unit number. This ensures donor confidentiality.


The unit is weighed and assessed using a checklist including: proper documentation completion, appropriate labeling and packaging, and training status for the unit’s collector.

Samples of the cord blood unit are sent for cell count and viability testing; in order for a unit to be suitable for patient transplant, it must meet a minimum cell count requirement.


We also take samples of the mother’s blood to test for diseases. The three purple tubes are sent for virology testing to ensure the CBU is free from infectious disease, while the red and yellow tubes are archived, in case a transplant center requests additional testing pre-transplant.

Automated Processing

Units meeting the above criteria are then selected for processing. A Sepax machine separates the collected unit into 3 components using a sterile, closed system.


These three components are:

  1. Red Blood Cells— a small amount is archived for future testing and another sample is sent for microbial testing.
  2. Buffy Coat—This contains the stem cells and is the portion that will be frozen and eventually used for patient transplant.
  3. Plasma — a small amount is archived for future testing and another sample is sent for microbial testing.


Another machine slowly adds cryoprotectant to the cells to help keep them safe during the deep-freezing process. A sealer creates several segments of the tubing, which can be sent for confirmatory testing when a unit is requested for transplant.

This unit is ready for the final stages of freezing.


It’s placed into a metal cartridge where it is gradually frozen using a computer program.


Once the unit is frozen, it is transferred into a storage rack then placed into a liquid-nitrogen freezer. The unit remains here until it is matched to a patient in need.

What Happens Next?

After a unit is banked, a medical screening is conducted with the donor to verify eligibility.

All of the paperwork then undergoes technical and quality review before a final sign-off by our Medical Director.

The unit is then listed on the Be The Match Registry®.

Learn more about cord blood.

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