Don't get me wrong – it's not like I won't carefully pack the baby outfit and toiletries when I'm getting my hospital bag ready in a few weeks' time, but I recently received my most important item – my cord blood stem cell collection kit from Netcells (if you're curious about how I got to this point, and why I chose stem cell banking and Netcells this time round, read here and here).
After my last gynae appointment, I met Netcells consultant Wendy Robertson, who conveniently came to the hospital coffee shop. She says she is a regular – often meeting clients and doing collection kit handovers. She's often in the 'hood too chatting at antenatal classes and meeting with gynaes.
Since I'm quite clued up on umbilical cord blood and tissue collection and banking, I thought I'd say ‘hi’ to Wendy, grab my box, and head back to work. Instead, this former teacher (I wish I’d had a teacher like her when I was at school) gave us forms to sign, and explained the entire procedure so well I'm pretty sure not even pre-delivery euphoria will prevent me from forgetting.
However, lest my memory fail me and my excitement get the better of me, my husband got the briefing too, and we were reassured that the gynaes are very versed in the procedures too.
So what do we need to do? Aside from taking the box to hospital, and keeping it near us during delivery, there's not much more. In fact, even if we forget the box, the labour ward has spare ones, just in case.
Once I've delivered, the doctor or midwife will collect what he or she needs to (doctors and midwives get training in umbilical cord blood and tissue collection), and we'll just make sure that everything is correctly packaged as Wendy demonstrated with the right paperwork.
Then, the package is ready to be sent to Netcells with a courier. Someone asked me if I will personally have to handle the blood and tissue, and the answer is no – that's what the doctor or midwife does. All we do is handle the package.
Once safely settled after delivery, we need to call Wendy to arrange the courier who collects the package and delivers it to the Netcells lab in Midrand. Netcells’ policy is to get the bloods to the lab within 48 hours for processing and storage, however Wendy did reassure me that the cells in the cord blood and tissue remain viable for 72 hours after collection. The courier collection process is swift and efficient even on weekends.
While still in hospital we also need to ask a nurse to call the on-site lab to collect a blood sample from me. Maternal blood testing is required as part of Netcells’ internationally accredited process. Interestingly, it is the only stem cell storage facility in SA to have independent international accreditation.
I know it's early days still, but I'm really impressed and assured so far that our baby's cells will be in the best hands, labs and storage facilities. Wendy has insisted I call her with any questions or concerns, and it is this approach that makes the experience less clinical and more personal.
Someone tweeted me recently to say that stem cell storage is all about the money, for something I'll probably never ever need. If he's right about the latter, I'll be ecstatic. But if we are "those ones" who need it, and we haven't banked, I will never forgive myself.
As for the money-making part of it, well, every private stem cell storage bank is a business. But it's a business of “life”, and I’m not sure there’s enough of a price on that.