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FAMILY—Shawnika Hunt with husband and son.

FAMILY—Shawnika Hunt with husband and son.

A local mother has made a courageous decision, in order to save a life.

“My decision was definitely made from a mother’s love. What I was asked to do for someone else’s child, I can only hope someone would do for mine. All parents want to live to see their children live happy, healthy, long lives. You can’t nurture someone in your womb and care for them after birth and not give all you can to ensure that,” donor Shawnika Hunt said.

Hunt was pregnant with her first child when she and her husband first agreed that they were not going to move forth with donating their child’s cord blood. That was until a close friend was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoma. Hunt immediately wanted to know what she could do to help.

It was when then that she learned about the need for African American cord blood donors. Hunt quickly learned that her child’s cord blood could potentially save a life.

“We initially said no to cord blood donation due to our lack of understanding of the extent it would be used in the beginning. However, we later donated in hopes of being a match for an adult friend of ours, Melanie,” Hunt said.

“By more African Americans becoming educated on this topic, and the importance of donating cord blood; we can help those who are suffering and give them a second chance,” Mary Wiegel of ITxM Cord Blood Services said,

Cord blood, like bone marrow, is rich in blood-forming cells that can be used in transplants for patients with leukemia, lymphoma, and other cancerous diseases.

African American or Black patients have an estimated 81 percent to 98 percent likelihood of having at least one matched umbilical cord blood unit on the Be The Match Registry website: BeTheMatch.org/­cord.

“The procedure itself is quite simple when compared to major surgery. A cord blood transplant does complex work inside the body, and treats serious and often fatal diseases,” Wiegel said.

Mothers and donors who decide to donate their child’s cord blood, do so after successfully giving birth to their child. The cord blood is collected after the umbilical cord is cut.

“My child is happy and healthy. He wasn’t required to do anything but be born,” Hunt said. “There were no testing required for him. All he had to do was be born and mommy gave blood.”

Unfortunately, Hunt’s child’s cord blood was later found to not be a match for her friend, Melanie. However, Melanie found a match via Cord Blood Donation. She had the transplant surgery, and she is now married and Leukemia free. Hunt’s cord has not been a match to someone yet.

“Unfortunately, we were not a match for Melanie, but hopefully our donation will help someone in the future,” Hunt said.

Studies show that when donated cells closely match a patient, their chances of transplant success improve. Patients are more likely to match someone who shares their racial or ethnic heritage. Which is why there is a need of more African Americans being educated on this topic.

In order to be a cord blood donor, you must be at least 18 years, single birth, and in general good health. Cannot be positive in Hepatitis or HIV. If interested in becoming a donor, email  Mary Wiegel of ITxM Cord Blood Services at mwiegel@itxm.org or call 412-209-7479.

“Because of this I am passionate about ensuring that everyone knows about the importance of Cord Blood donation,” Hunt said. “I have seen it work, and I have seen a family watch a loved one on the brink of death, survive because a mother knew that her unborn child held the gift of life for another person.”


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Hunt donates cord blood to save a life was originally published on newpittsburghcourieronline.com

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