…And an alien looking creature began to form in the body of the woman, a parasite stealing nutrients from the blood of its host. The woman fought to maintain her former self, but the creature was relentless, selfishly stealing energy for its own physical growth. The woman was ill and you would think that the repulsive vomiting would force the creature out, but it held on and began to fight back kicking and punching the woman from her inner walls, forcing its way under her ribs, and moving itself through her body as if it were demanding more space; more energy. Just as the woman felt she could no longer bare the weight of this other being, a stream of liquid gushed from her body and she lay screaming in pain, fighting to remove the creature. Her struggle seemed endless and when she finally thought she had won, she realized they were still connected. The blood filled cord through which the creature fed remained attached. It would have to be cut, but what would be become of this lifeline that successfully nurtured her baby for nine long months?

Yes, her baby! You have to admit that the condition of pregnancy although miraculous and beautiful, is also quite bizarre. For the expectant mother, it is nine months of inexplicable bodily transformation, intense emotional mood-swings, and insane cravings often wiped away by the taste of vomit and countered by elation at the thought of this new human life. A life that before gestation is attached to the mother by a cord through which it receives the nutrients necessary to grow and develop. And now, as if all of this is not strange enough, medical research is forcing us to examine the possible uses of the umbilical blood beyond the birth of a child.

In the past the umbilical cord was discarded as medical waste; however, research reveals that cord blood contains hematopoietic stem cells. These cells have the ability to create all other blood cells: platelets that clot the blood, red cells that carry oxygen and white cells that fight disease. The stem cells found in cord blood are the same as the cells found in bone marrow; however, cord blood is easier to collect, has a potentially endless supply, and can be more sufficiently matched, making cord blood a plausible option in curing diseases such as leukemia and other cancers, anemias, lymphomas, and genetic and immune disorders.

For any woman who has just survived labor, the collection of blood will probably go unnoticed. The blood is drawn from the cord and packaged for shipping while the placenta is still being delivered. It is a painless procedure that is absolutely risk-free for both mother and baby. The blood is then sent to a lab where it is screened and frozen until needed. The blood may be stored in a public blood bank, or privately for an initial fee plus an annual storage charges. If stored in a public bank it is open to public use and will be donated when a match is made. If stored privately it is only availed to the person responsible for storing the blood. Privately freezing blood is recommended for people with a predisposition for certain diseases, otherwise the chances that the blood will ever be used are slim; publicly donated blood is much more likely to be used.

If you are pregnant or know of someone who is pregnant, you may want to research facilities that bank blood or speak to your physician about the procedures for donation in your local hospital. Although the whole process may sound a little freaky, when you consider it as one more twist in the already bizarre condition of life, it shouldn’t come as a surprise.


© Melt Magazine 2002