Somewhere on the other side of the world a young boy is life-threateningly ill with leukaemia, a bone marrow transplant his only hope of cure. Somewhere on the other side of the world are anxious parents, excited, scared and hopeful; a matching cord blood unit has been found in an Australian cord blood bank and is being shipped to their hospital for their son to undergo the bone marrow transplant he desperately needs. The cord blood was donated by a Melbourne mum ten years ago, and has been sitting in cryostorage at the bank, waiting for it to be just the right one for someone in need. Today was the day.
I love my job! I am the Director of the BMDI Cord Blood Bank in Melbourne, one of three public cord blood banks in Australia. The Cord Blood Bank banked its first cord blood unit in 1996, with the first unit sent out for unrelated bone marrow transplant in 2000. Today we released our 500th cord blood unit for transplant! I am overwhelmed, humbled and grateful for the small part I have played in achieving this wonderful milestone. The cord blood unit that was couriered out the door today was the result of a combined effort of a multitude of people; the mother who so generously donated the cord blood from her newborn baby, the collection staff and their hospitals, the laboratory scientists who processed and banked the cord blood, the Medical Director who reviewed the clinical details, the tissue typing and testing laboratories, the Australian Bone Marrow Donor Registry who facilitated matching of patient and donor, the transplant team who prepared the unit for shipment, the government and philanthropic groups who fund the public cord blood banking program in Australia, the regulatory authorities and quality team who ensure we operate at the highest level of quality and the host institutions who run the bank – the Fight Cancer Foundation, the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and The Royal Children’s Hospital. An enormous amount of people power, care and effort has gone into being able to provide the boy on the other side of the world a second chance of life. It is truly a privilege to be the person who ultimately signs off on the release for shipment of our cord blood units. It is a task I never take for granted, and I always take a moment to think of the patients and families at the other end who are pinning all their hopes on the miracle these cord blood units can provide. Bon voyage to the 500th cord blood unit and the boy at the other end.