‘Don’t throw your baby’s cord away’ appeals family after bone marrow transplant

Rachel and Donna Simpson.
Rachel and Donna Simpson.
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A brave teenager who had a bone marrow transplant wants to inspire others to save lives.

Rachel Simpson and her mum Donna want people to sign up as donors of babies’ umbilical cords to help treat killer diseases.

Blood in the umbilical cords contains stem cells which can be used in treatment of blood cancer and other fatal conditions.

But they are usually thrown away after birth and Donna wants new parents to register so the vital blood can be used.

She has written to David Morris MP and wants to tour local schools to campaign for donors.

Rachel, 15, had life-saving surgery after being diagnosed with a mutated GATA2 gene.

Without the transplant, the rare genetic condition would have led to leukaemia, a form of blood cancer which can kill.

Donna said: “It’s really important that we get this message out. While Rachel was in hospital, three children died who were there, and who we knew.

“How many cords are thrown away every day? They could save a person’s life.

“But we only have a few hospitals in the country where they can be donated.” The NHS Cord Blood Bank was set up in 1996 to collect, process, store and supply cord blood for transplants.

Once the cord blood has been processed and frozen, it can be stored until a patient with a matching tissue type needs a stem cell transplant.

This operation can treat conditions such as leukaemia and problems with the immune system.

Mothers must give their consent for the cord blood and any part of the placenta or cord itself to be collected.

But cord blood can only be collected in hospitals where there are specially trained staff. There are facilities at Barnet General, Northwick Park Hospital, Harrow, Luton and Dunstable Hospital, Watford General, St George’s, London and University College Hospital, London.

Charity the Anthony Nolan Trust also has cord blood collection points in four British hospitals; Saint Mary’s, Manchester, King’s College Hospital in London, Leicester Royal Infirmary and Leicester General Hospital. Donna will soon begin a series of talks in local schools, backed by the Anthony Nolan Trust, which raises money for victims of blood cancer.

She has been in touch with Heysham High School, where Rachel is a pupil, and Morecambe Community High School.

The Trust recently wrote to David Morris on the Simpsons’ behalf. Mr Morris said: “Whilst I have only received a standard campaign email from Mrs Simpson so far if she wants to write in with her personal experience and views of what she would like to see changed I would be more than happy to raise her individual concerns with the Secretary of State for Health.”

Rachel is recovering at her Heysham home following the successful operation in July.

For details of how to register to donate umbilical cord blood and for more information go to http://www.anthonynolan.org/8-ways-you-could-save-life/donate-your-umbilical-cord-blood/frequently-asked-questions