OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network

Longtime friends and co-workers Julia Carr and Cara Siu were ecstatic when they discovered they were both expecting for the first time.

Dancers for many years in the same Vancouver company, Aeriosa, Julia and Cara would now enter a new, highly anticipated life stage together — motherhood. Both inclined toward midwifery, the pair entered the South Community Birthing Program, a multi-disciplinary maternity care program in South Vancouver.

It was there they first learned they could donate their umbilical cord blood at BC Women’s Hospital. The cord blood would be collected by a Canadian Blood Services staff member to be added to the inventory of the national public cord blood bank.

“The information was presented [from] a down-to-earth, practical, and neutral point of view,” notes Cara. “I appreciated that, and I think it’s great.”

Both women, like many Canadians, have had their own experiences needing blood and stem cells and didn’t hesitate to sign up for the program.

For Julia, a relative needed an unrelated bone marrow transplant, exposing her at a young age to the need for stem cell treatments. Cara had an even closer connection to the blood system. She had received a unit of blood as an infant, before modern medical advancements were available for treating incompatibility between the mother’s and baby’s blood in utero.

“When I was born, I required a full blood transfusion,” said Cara. “Someone contributed blood to keep me alive, and so being offered this opportunity to give into a global community, it’s fantastic for me as a recipient.”

Incredibly, both women delivered their beautiful and healthy baby boys on the very same day at BC Women’s Hospital, despite having due dates weeks apart. In the excitement and intensity of childbirth, the donation of their umbilical cord blood went entirely unnoticed.

“There was so much going on, I wasn’t even aware of it happening,” says Julia. “It didn’t interfere with the birth process and was so simple, yet it could do so much good.”

While Julia’s son’s cord blood was a happy and welcome addition to the national bank, Cara’s donation was extra special, given her son Jasper’s unique genetic makeup. A mix of Chinese, Trinidadian, and Caucasian heritage, Jasper’s cord blood is a much-needed addition to the Canadian registry. It offers patients of mixed ethnicity who need stem cell transplants a better chance of finding a match.

“When he grows, I will tell him about what he contributed to, and hopefully he will have a sense of his part in the global community,” Cara says.

Learn more about cord blood donation