Max’s first charitable donation came just moments after he entered this world in October of 2006.
At least that’s how his mother, Sharon, likes to describe her decision to donate Max’s cord blood following his birth at Prentice Women’s Hospital.
Cord blood is the blood that remains in the placenta and the attached umbilical cord after birth. It contains stem cells which can be used to treat hematopoietic and genetic disorders. Despite its importance, 97 percent of women do not donate or bank their newborn’s cord blood and it is discarded as waste, according to the non-profit Save the Cord Foundation.
“For me, it was a no-brainer,” the Chicagoan said of donating her son’s cord blood. “It doesn’t make sense to just discard it if someone else can benefit from it.”
Cord blood donation is safe to both mother and child and there is no fee when donated to a public blood bank.
“I think one of the reasons so few mothers donate cord blood is because they are unaware it’s even an option,” Sharon said. “I had never heard of it until my Ob/Gyn spoke to me about it while I was pregnant. It’s very important to educate women on the benefits of donating cord blood.”
Educating expectant mothers was one of the main reasons Sharon was happy to be included in a front-page Chicago Sun-Times article titled “How a Baby Saved a Life” that explained how umbilical cord blood is used to treat deadly illnesses. Max and Sharon were both prominently featured in the 2007 article with the infant gracing the front page and another picture of Max — this time being held by his mother — appearing on Page 3.
“I was just picked at random for the article but I was very excited to be selected and to spread the word about cord blood donation,” Sharon said. “We have a copy of the paper framed in the house, and I’ve jokingly told Max he should reference it on his college applications.”
Sharon once again donated her baby’s cord blood when she gave birth to her second son in 2008. She later recruited her sister to do the same when she had a baby a few years later. Expectant mothers who would like to donate their child’s cord blood should talk to their doctor between the 28th and 34th week of pregnancy. Mothers must be at least 18, having a single birth, at least 34 weeks gestation and be in general good health.
“It’s a painless procedure so there is no reason not to do it,” Sharon said.
Another selfless activity Sharon encourages is the donation of blood. Sharon admits the first time she rolled up her sleeve and gave a pint of blood wasn’t exactly for selfless reasons but she is now a frequent donor.
“The first time I donated blood I was in high school and it was to get out of PE class,” Sharon joked. “Now as a parent you realize how important it is to have a supply of blood available for those in need. If everyone who was eligible to donate blood went ahead and donated there wouldn’t be the concern about blood shortages.
“It’s just a simple way to help others.”