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New parents Jacquelyn Weidinger and Dennis McCullough embrace daughter Delilah.

Free, quick, and painless.

New mom and recent cord blood donor Jacquelyn Weidinger used these three words to describe the public cord blood donation process before remembering her favorite part: “potentially life-saving.”

Looking at the numbers, it would seem as if many new mothers agree.  With the birth of her daughter Delilah at SSM St. Joseph Health Center on Jan. 18, Weidinger became the 100,000th donor to the St. Louis Cord Blood Bank at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center.

“I knew that Delilah’s cord blood would go to a good cause. If I can help anyone I am happy to do it,” Weidinger said.

Every year thousands of patients are diagnosed with diseases that  might be treated with a stem cell transplant. Traditionally, the stem cells were extracted from  bone-marrow. However, cord blood is now used more than frequently than bone marrow. Each donation to the St. Louis Cord Blood Bank increases the chances that patients needing a stem cell transplant can quickly find a match.

Dr. Jamie Puckett, Weidinger’s obstetrician at SSM St. Joseph Health Center, said, “Cord blood collection is safe and simple. It doesn’t interfere with the birthing process, and poses no risk to the mother or baby.” He went on to say, “The stem cells extracted from the placenta and umbilical cord blood are more flexible and can be successfully used with a less-than-perfect match than with using bone marrow.

“Cord blood can be used for stem cell transplants to treat more than 70 different diseases,” Puckett said. “There are fewer side effects compared to bone marrow and a lower rate of rejection.”

Kathy Mueckl is the nurse coordinator at the St. Louis Cord Blood Bank and has worked with the program since it began more than 15 years ago. Mueckl said that she considers the program “the ultimate recycling project.”

“The whole process is really incredible,” Mueckl said. “By donating, you are taking what would normally be thrown into the trash and potentially using it to save someone’s life. We are amazed at the response from the community.  We keep wondering ‘When are we going to plateau?’ Yet, the number of patients participating keeps increasing every year. I feel extremely rewarded to be a part of this life saving program.”

Donor recruiter Vicki Geiler says she is pleased with the results.

“We would be happy with 30 percent of delivering moms donating, but at some hospitals, we are seeing numbers closer to 50 percent,” Geiler said.

However, there are some patients with reservations, Mueckl said.

“Some people simply don’t know about the program, or fear the program is too good to be true, that there must be some catch,” Mueckl said. “However, this process is completely safe and ethical.  We are regulated by the FDA. If a cord blood unit doesn’t qualify to be used for transplant,  it may be used for non-controversial stem-cell research.”

Dennis McCullough, Delilah’s father, said that Delilah’s donation was planned.

“We were very confident coming into her birth that we wanted to donate her cord blood,” McCullough said. “Jackie heard about the program when she was pregnant with our oldest daughter, Alexis, and knew that she wanted to donate. When we got pregnant with Delilah, it was an easy choice to make.  We think it’s great.”

For Weidinger, the decision to donate was easy.

“I am excited that I could help,” Weidinger said as she and McCullough finished packing to leave their hospital room. “It was either the trash can or the possibility of saving a life. Who wouldn’t choose life?”

For more information, please contact the St. Louis Cord Blood Bank at 314-268-2787, 888-453-2673, or visit the website, www.slcbb.org


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