Héma-Québec marks cord blood milestone, calls for more donations

Héma-Québec celebrated its 10,000th unit of umbilical cord blood Monday, and said there is great need for more.

Umbilical cord blood, a rich source of stem cells, needed in fight against leukemia, other blood diseases

Staff at Héma-Québec's Public Cord Blood Bank celebrate the banking of the 10,000th unit of cord blood Monday. (Radio-Canada)

Héma-Québec celebrated its 10,000th unit of umbilical cord blood Monday, and said there is great need for more.

The organization's Public Cord Blood Bank marked the milestone Monday with an event featuring two Quebecers who benefited from cord blood transplants and a mother who has now made three donations to the bank.

Cord blood is a rich source of stem cells, which are a leading treatment for blood diseases such as leukemia.

Luca Di Ketto, 21, was diagnosed with leukemia in February 2004 — the year Héma-Québec's cord blood bank opened.

Luca Di Ketto received a blood cord transplant in 2005 after being diagnosed with leukemia. The procedure saved his life, he said. (CBC)
In January 2005, he became one of the first of the now 100 people around the world who have received cord blood from Héma-Québec's bank.

This year marked 10 years that he's been cancer-free.

"There was a time when I was really ill and it was really hard and with that procedure I was back to being a normal kid again and back to being a really happy person, a healthy person," he said.

The procedure benefits not only patients, but their families, Di Ketto said.

"It'll not only save that person's life, but really save the lives around them for their families," he said.

Mai Duong, who received a blood cord transplant last year after a long, public search for a compatible Vietnamese donor, was expected at the event, but could not make it.

More donors needed

Donations come from mothers like Valerye Dubois, who made her third contribution to the bank after the birth of her son Loïc two months ago.

She said her doctor introduced her to the idea of donating to the bank and she couldn't say no.

"When I read the documentation, I just said yes," she said.  "If it can help save lives, I said, 'Why not?"

Héma-Québec said more than 1,000 Canadians are in need of a stem cell transplant, including 100 Quebecers, so more donations are always needed.