CAVAN scientist, Catherina McCauley, is a firm advocate of the need to collect umbilical stem cells.
She had her cord blood collected after giving birth to her eldest child in the US — and a few years later, fought to make it happen for her second baby, Sarah, now aged eight, in an Irish maternity hospital.
“I did my research and very quickly became convinced it was the best thing to do.
“There is so much potential in the treatment, it was a no-brainer.
“For me it was like taking out an insurance policy,” adds McCauley, who works in the infant formula sector.
Catherina lived in America for 10 years and gave birth to her first child, Conor, now aged 10, in the US.
“I had the stem cells collected after the birth of Conor in the States. Gathering cord stem cells for storage is offered as a matter of course in America.”
But the situation wasn't as straightforward on her return to Ireland, when she was pregnant with her second child, Sarah.
“When I was pregnant with Sarah, I went to my local hospital in Cavan and asked that my cord blood be stored and they told me it was not done routinely.
“I was shocked, but it was not an option to have my baby anywhere else, because I gave birth to my first child very quickly and they expected the same to happen with my second, so travelling long distances was not an option for me,” she said.
However, the scientist decided to fight for the right to get the cord blood stem cells harvested. She got a lot of support from the Irish Patients Association, and, she says, was eventually allowed to do it, “as long as I signed a waiver if it didn't work out.
“A nurse who was aware of the situation said she was willing to do it, as she had done it while working in Saudi Arabia.
“She knew how to do it and was willing to do it for me — when I went into labour in June 2006 with Sarah, she was on and she attended me and took the blood.
The HSE says that Cavan General Hospital does not collect stem cells for undetermined future medical need, but does offer the service, albeit very rarely, if a clinical need is predetermined at the time of delivery.
“Taking cord blood is completely routine in the US — you can choose the company to store the blood, which an obstetrician takes as part of delivering the baby.
“There’s no fuss at all about it — it’s your child’s blood.
“I look at it as an insurance policy. I find it really hard to understand the viewpoint in Ireland — we’re all paying our taxes, which help fund scientific research, including research into the benefits of cord blood and yet, it’s such a big deal for individual parents to collect and store it.