By Diane Ako
PUNAHOU (KHNL) - Each year in Hawaii, more than 4,000 people are diagnosed with life threatening illnesses like cancer. But soon to be parents can help with a painless blood donation. Parents can donate their baby's umbilical cord blood to the Hawaii Cord Blood Bank. This non profit is unique in that it's one of the few in the nation that runs almost entirely on volunteers.
7 months ago, when little Madeline was born, her mom, Selena Flickinger, decided to donate her umbilical cord blood to a public blood bank. "Why not help somebody if they need the help? If you can give somebody the chance to have their child or loved one to continue on because of something you did, I think that's a great feeling."
The blood is rich with life giving stem cells. Nothing is ever done to the baby. The cord would otherwise be discarded. On the day your baby is born, the Hawaii Cord Blood Bank likes to say, you can give the gift of life a second time by donating what would normally be trashed, into treasure. "It was really very simple. Giving birth to her was a lot more difficult," jokes Flickinger.
The Hawaii Cord Blood Bank started in 1998. But donations are still fairly low. The bank says only about 20 percent of moms who deliver at Kapiolani Medical Center, donate cord blood. Registered nurse Lisa Wong-Yamamoto, a Kapiolani staffer and a cord blood bank volunteer, puts out the plea: "You can save a life by doing a little paperwork."
Experts say two thirds of people needing transplants don't have a matching donor in their family, and finding a match is harder in Hawaii due to the diverse ethnicities. Wong-Yamamoto says, "By having our children here, who also have diverse ethnic backgrounds, we can help our own."
Flickinger agrees. "It's about helping others that need help."