February 19, 2015

A Strong Woman

I hate that "a strong woman" is really code for "she acts masculine." It is usually a compliment, although get too assertive, and that bitch is so abrasive. aggressive. pushy.

A girl playing with stereotypical boys' toys is applauded, but a girl who takes pride in stereotypical girls' activities is ignored as being one of the herd.

No, all toys shouldn't be pink for girls. But, for the girl who likes pink, isn't that OK that she wants a pink truck instead of a green one?

A parent at my son's gym laughed aloud at his pink shorts, commenting that they were probably once white but caught with a red sock in the washer. Nope. We dyed them pink on purpose!

People openly commented on my son's long hair, and made their approval quite clear once he cut it.

It is OK for girls to aspire to do "boy things." What a strong woman for being just as important as a man!

It is not OK for boys to do "girl things," because that's a demotion.

--

I worked in a preschool co-op when my oldest son was a toddler. There was this one little boy who adored the play kitchen. As soon as his grandmother was out of sight each morning, he'd go to the plastic stove and oven, and laugh as he whipped up imaginary cakes and omelettes.

One day, he decided to stay in the play kitchen during a time when usually the kids are reading books. The grandmother came to pick him up, and was furious. She usually saw him reading a book. She asked why we "forced" her grandson into the kitchen, muttering something about liberals under her breath.

When the grandmother dropped him off the next day, she directed him to the trucks. He started to toddle towards the kitchen. She grabbed him roughly and put him near the trucks. He was crying and crying. PLAY WITH THESE. The grandmother wondered aloud whether perhaps he was just too upset that day to remain at school. But, we insisted that he'd be fine once she left, and reassured her that if he was truly inconsolable, we'd call her. Finally, the grandmother left.

But a few minutes later, she went to the window outside the preschool to watch her grandson. By then, he was in the kitchen (of course!) She made horrific faces to show just how disappointed she was that he was playing there. Not surprisingly, he started to cry again.

The grandmother ran back to the preschool and announced that she would take him home.

We explained that he was completely content until she started making faces outside the window.

"Oh, I thought that was a two-way mirror," she told us angrily, not even understanding the idiocy of her statement.

That boy is now around fifteen years old. I wonder if he was allowed to learn to cook?

--

My son told me that one of his friends is breaking up with his girlfriend today.

The conversation we had about it was tough for me, because I totally saw things from my son's friend's point of view about how needy and guilt-trippy his soon-to-be-ex is. And yet, I also wanted to defend the female perspective, and give him a little insight as to why she might have behaved as she did.

"I suppose he should explain what went wrong," my son reasoned. I agreed, telling him that to validate her feelings while also explaining how it made him feel would be a good choice. Open communication, and all that.

But teenagers aren't the posterfolk for "logic."

Still, I heard traditional roles being played out. The whole concept that a clingy girl might "go crazy" or that he was "whipped" by her. (And they don't mean 50 Shades; they mean manipulative. "Don't do that or I'll break up with you!") Those sneaky ladies.

--

On dates I would eat quickly and eat heartily. I didn't want to be seen as one of those women who picked at her salad. Men hate it when woman eat tiny portions, right?, or do they secretly love it because they flatter themselves that a woman cares to be skinny for him?

I changed myself in many ways to not appear too needy, too clingy. I changed myself to fit his interests, because I didn't want to be demanding or difficult.

I lost myself.

I became neither a strong woman nor a strong woman.

January 15, 2015

For a Million Dollars

My son asked me if I'd eat worms for a million dollars.

Yup, I suppose I would.

My son asked me if I'd stare into the sun for five minutes for a billion dollars.

No, not without a shield of some sort.

A billion dollars is a lot of money.

Yeah, but my vision is precious to me.

Yeah, I agree.

Would you stare into the sun for a billion dollars?

I thought about other things I wouldn't do for a billion dollars, or even a million dollars. I wouldn't want to be isolated from my family. I wouldn't want to lose any of my senses. I wouldn't want to lose my mental or physical heath. I wouldn't want to be disfigured in any way. I wouldn't want to be permanently overweight.

I thought about how superficial some of my thoughts were. (Really Kari, you wouldn't agree to be fat forever for a billion dollars?) but of course some of my answers showed that I value others, which I suppose is "honorable." (For example, I wouldn't hurt someone for money. That is probably why I am not rich, since so many "successful" people purposely squash down others to stand on their shoulders.)

Our conversation was supposed to be kind of funny, but I've thought about it for days afterwards. After all, what I value does shape my behavior and how I choose to spend my time. When presented with an opportunity (or a demand) I have to consider, "Is this really worth it?" And on the flip side, what do I value intellectually that I'm not paying enough attention to in the real world?

January 12, 2015

6 Tacos

After school and before gymnastics, my son and I went to a Mexican restaurant to grab some "to-go" food.

I ordered six shrimp tacos for us to share.

About eight minutes later, we received our tacos, and walked out to the car. Once inside, I discovered only three tacos in our container. My son and I froze for a moment: we were right on time for gymnastics, taking into consideration the time it would take to eat the tacos. We couldn't afford another eight minute (or so) wait.

But we only had half our order.

Did Tacos save us from a car accident?

We went back in. "Um, I ordered six tacos, but there are only three here."

"Yes, I know," was the interesting response the cashier gave me.

As we waited for our tacos, it occurred to me that "seis" and "tres" sound pretty similar. I had indeed paid for six, but perhaps the person actually making the tacos misheard, and thought I had ordered three?

As we drove towards the gym after receiving our delicious-but-delayed order, my son funneled the food into his mouth as quickly as possible. We knew we'd be late, which was a bummer.

A couple minutes later, we saw a horrific accident. A car was completely turned over, and shattered glass covered all lanes. It was a fairly fresh collision and the police had just arrived on the scene.

I can't say for sure how many minutes prior that accident had occurred, but I would guess 8-10 minutes, just about the time we would have been passing through had we received all six tacos the first time.

December 31, 2014

It must be a New Year

Last night I had one of those stereotypical anxiety dreams: the college one.

Per usual, it was an end-of-the-semester situation where I had somehow neglected to go to class all semester. How could I possibly receive passing marks? In this case, it was the intended penultimate semester of my college career, so I was trying to figure out how I could possibly schedule my final semester in such a way to make up for the sins of the current semester and graduate on time.

But how?

In my dream, I had been sick all autumn. Indeed, in "real life" I've been getting nasty colds on repeat. (I'd like to think I saved myself from something much worse by getting my flu vaccination, but the season has been pretty brutal.) My motivation to attend class or to study was super-low, which is unlike my personality back when I actually was in college.

And yet, I was excited. In a way, knowing that I had books to read and new classes to sign up for was a fun new beginning. Even with the college anxiety dreams that involve me having no idea where the registrar is located (yes, I know, it is all online now,) I still love the idea of a fresh beginning.

The two things that still haunt me in my dreams: if I can't graduate on time, then that's extra money we have to spend, and how can I stay away from my kids for yet another semester?

It is funny how pieces of "reality" sneak into dreams: In nearly all of my college-type dreams, I am in college on the East Coast while my family lives on the West Coast. Yikes! In one dream, I'm offered a prestigious position... in New York. But of course my family is here, in California.

When I wake up, there is always a relief that yes, I did in fact graduate, and didn't flunk out while doing so, but also a let-down, that yeah... I'm "just a mom" here in California. I'm not embarking on any new adventures. I'm not learning any new things. Or will I? After all, a new year is brewing, which is a perfect time to re-evaluate what is going on in my life.

My family is definitely growing and evolving:

My husband has a new job. His new beginning is exciting and will hopefully affect the whole family in a positive way.

My older son had an interesting start to the school year, as he had emergency surgery on only the second day of attending classes. He missed much of the "introductory" stuff. So, he had to do a real life "catch up" before successfully getting fabulous grades. (I'm so proud of him!) He is growing up fast. We've already gone to the first orientation meeting for high school. Eek! And yet, I know he is ready. He has matured so much in just the last couple years, and it astonishes me. It is cliche, but I'm truly surprised at how quickly his childhood has whizzed by. I'm holding on to every moment, and yet I'm also glad for his independence.

My younger son had the first meet of his gymnastics season at the start of December (it went well - whew!) but he has several more meets coming up: this is both exciting and nerve-wracking, since he's hoping to gain new skills and to do well competitively! Last season he had difficulty with Sever's Disease, but we didn't know it was Sever's, or we would have successfully "solved" it. Now, he has a stretching and soaking protocol that he follows to reduce the pain. Still, I get nervous about injuries, and of course pray that he does his best during meets (since I see what he's capable of during workout, and of course want him to do the same when the judges are watching!)

I'm hoping for a great 2015 -- for my family, for my friends... and for me.

December 23, 2014

Thinking of you.

My youngest and I went to support some of his classmates in Peter Pan Jr. this evening. One of the fairies was played by a girl whose mom died this summer. At one point, the Lost Boys announce, "We want a mother!" and I happened to be looking at that one girl when the fairies echo, "Us too!" ... and I lost it. (Quietly.)

It isn't my tragedy, and I know she'd be horrified if she knew that my heart broke on her behalf at that moment, but I just want to acknowledge that I hold her family in my thoughts. She actually wasn't the only student at the elementary school who lost a parent this year, but she's the only one I "know" personally. It slays me that these young kids are experiencing loss so early.

I have adult friends who lost parents this past year, too. And so of course I'm thinking of them as well. Being an adult doesn't make grief any easier. It frightens me, because I know that my family members won't be around forever. And so I am simultaneously thankful for their presence and worried about making sure they are all OK. Always. (Even though I know it cannot be always and forever.)

Just today I learned of a friend whose husband is dying. She called her daughter who was on her honeymoon to come home immediately: it is that imminent.

Sometimes during the holiday season I find myself grumping around about trivial things. I hate these reminders that life is about so much more because I don't want to think about "PLEASE let it not happen to me!", and yet it is important to remember. Although I don't want to think about loss, acknowledging that others aren't so merry this year is a good reminder to be gentle to others, and to be thankful for what I have.

--

When I was younger, I participated in a bunch of "Secret Santa" exchanges. Often, I'd go "all out" for my person, but then I'd end up with someone who flaked out, so I'd get nothing (or next to nothing.)

This year, I had a terrific #SecretClever, through the Clever Girls gift exchange. She got me things that I adored! Meanwhile, I bought my person some things I figured she'd enjoy, too. It felt great, because it was a reciprocal event. I felt I did something nice, and I felt valued too because I got goodies - yay!

Well, it turns out that the wonderful gal who bought me my presents didn't get any in return. Before knowing it was her, I agreed to be this mystery blogger's replacement #SecretClever. When I learned who I'd be buying for, I was so excited!

I spent the day shopping for her, so glad to do something for someone who had already made me smile. I am disappointed that her original person was unable to complete the task (yet I acknowledge that this person may be in the midst of crisis; I don't know), but I'm thrilled that I could step in to provide a little holiday joy for her.

I'm definitely thinking of her this holiday season. Friendship is definitely golden.

December 4, 2014

Black, White and Grey

It has been a shocking and difficult time for the Black community. As a white woman, I can understand privilege from the "I'm not male" perspective, but have not experienced it from the "I'm not white" perspective, because I am white. Still, I have witnessed things that are overtly racist, and some that are more subtly so.

I've thought a lot about racial relations and privilege recently. I've thought about standards of beauty, and expectations for how people are "supposed" to be... and how when things don't mesh with our own experiences, our own perspective, we are prejudiced.

--

When I was young, my cousin got a doll with long blonde hair. My parents got me a Black baby doll with short dark hair. I was mad because I wanted to do my dolly's hair.

--

My son told me that in circle time on Monday, a classmate shared that his father was unable to come to Thanksgiving dinner because he was required to "deal with the protesters." I told my son that Michael Brown will never be at Thanksgiving dinner ever again.

--

I had lunch with a friend a couple weeks ago, plus one of my friend's collegues who happens to be from Sweden. She noted my last name and wondered about my heritage. "Did you do Santa Lucia?" she asked me, before rolling her eyes and explaining that even to this day, the girl with the longest, blondest hair is the special one who stands in the front of the class while everyone else wears "stupid" elf hats as part of her court.

--

When I told my son about Eric Garner, his eyes welled up with tears. "That doesn't make any sense," he told me. As I rambled on and on about all the things happening in that realm, he thoughtfully remarked, "That's just like Rice, a story we read last year." He told me the tale, which essentially was part racial-profiling, and part lack of empathy for poverty. (It was a Les Mis type thing: poor man steals only enough to feed his family.) I could only nod as he repeated, "That's just so wrong." After all, he thought such things only happened in "stories."

--

The very first Black kids I met were twins Michelle and Michael. I loved playing with them, and especially loved how Michelle's hair puffed out. I wanted my (thin, sparse) hair to puff out like that!

--

An organization that I assist with caters to both English- and Spanish-speaking people. The majority of the fliers and posts are in English; however, occasionally I'm able to post things in Spanish. I advertised some Spanish fliers, and someone immediately wrote, "What's this say?" (Um, look everywhere else. Everything else is in English, Dearie.) Then someone wrote, "Thank you so much for posting this in Spanish." Immediately, someone else countered, "Thank you so much for posting this in English" ...and immediately got "likes."

--

In elementary school, I met a Black girl named LaShelle. I laughed because there was a street in my neighborhood named LaSalle. LaShelle lived with her grandmother and some other members of her extended family. I was intrigued by this. I just had a mom, dad, and brother with me in my house. I had to travel far to visit either set of grandparents. How funny to have everyone under the same roof!

--

The first time I heard the term "White Privilege" was from a very white man 20+ years my senior. He thoughtfully told me --and the others in the room during an education-related meeting-- about a conference he attended with a bunch of students. At the same time, I met a woman who I recall saying, "I'm scared about our Black boys. I want to save them. THAT is why I am here." I didn't understand what she meant at the time. Alas, I've now come to learn about many examples that make my chest tighten with recognition and concern for mothers who have Black boys. (I feel very vulnerable as a mother, and realize that if I had Black boys, I would be suffocated by my fear.)

--

I dated a guy whose grandmother insisted she was of Swedish decent. She routinely dismissed the "stupidity" (she used a harsher term) of the "Orientals" (her words, not mine) for "messing up" the Scandinavian bloodline. Those ?$%^ Oriental concubines! she'd shake her head with disgust. Oh, should I mention she had dark, smooth, shiny black hair and gorgeous almond-shaped eyes?

--

I wore black today to support #BlackLivesMatter

--

Now before you say, yeah, but All Lives Matter: Well, I love the below tweets, which I found via Awesomely Luvvie.


Arthur Chu [@arthur_affect] tweets out excellent ways to look at why #AllLivesMatter is not an understanding response to #BlackLivesMatter

Understanding this is similar to the #YesAllWomen versus #NotAllMen thing from earlier this year. While I may be white, and therefore don't fully comprehend the depth of what is going on in the Black community (or more accurately, what the Black community feels given what some white people do) I can understand #YesAllWomen. I am all too aware about how I have been treated because I am a woman. And yeah, I understand that not all guys are "mean" or "sexist" or whatever you want to call it. But, men have privilege (much of what isn't their "fault" nor do they truly understand how their male-ness really does assist them) just like I have white privilege.

And so, I understand what I do not understand.

Note: I realize two of my brainstorms above had to do with non-Black ethnicities (Spanish-speakers and Asians, respectively.) But, I wanted to mention these as part of a similar problem of not recognizing privilege (or, in the case of the boyfriend's grandmother, a case of race-hate). Racial stereotypes and profiling are real. And of late, the consequences therein have becoming devastatingly clear and horrifically frightening.

November 28, 2014

My Wish List

November is my birth month! But, although I began brainstorming my hopes and desires at the start of the month, the craziness of the holidays has consumed me so much that it is now the end of the month. Ah well, perhaps next year. But here's what I want... someday:

- a headset or car thingy so I can actually use my phone in the car. I used to have one and then it died. I want The Best Thing, yet there are many choices.

- to no longer be on antibiotics. (And no longer need a new course once I've finished the current one.)

- a mophie for my phone since my old one died. (updated: I snagged one for myself thanks to their excellent Black Friday deal - hooray!)

- to take care of myself better

- to shop for bras and get properly fit without having to deal with Judgmental Bra Ladies. (I think I got my current bra in, like, college.)

- a small desk so that I don't work at the dining room table (and an additional bookshelf or file cabinet to store things)

- to be more confident

- to have more good hair days than bad hair days (if I could be on "week 3" post-haircut forever, that would be good.)

- a new bedspread (soft! pretty! snuggly!)

- to be appreciated

- some curtains for the window by my computer

- to freeze time, since my boys are at really cool ages. (My oldest and I recently went to a high school orientation night. I'm not ready to have a high-schooler.)

- to not feel ugly

- one day of no work (just one.) And I don't mean "postponing work until the next day so that everything piles up."

- these earrings

- for people to stop asking "how's my back" (because the answer is not satisfying, so I can either be truthful and explain, or lie and then have folks say, "Oh, good! So now you can exercise again..." #YouAreFat)

- to not be afraid to speak up for myself

- something luxurious

- a better 2015


October 22, 2014

How laziness got my son to work harder: Middle-School Logic

Last year, my son was Third Chair of Violins II. He lost a Chair Challenge, so ended up being Fourth Chair for a bit. But he worked hard to get back to Third Chair.

Why don't you challenge for Second Chair? I wondered.

He laughed at me. No way, because the even numbers turn the pages in the music. I'm too lazy.

This year, he was assigned Second Chair.

For the last couple weeks, he's been practicing his violin more than I've ever witnessed.

I'm going to Challenge, he told me.

And today, he became First Chair.

His teacher then informed him of all the responsibilities he now has as Section Leader.

But... he's just relieved because he's too lazy to turn the pages of music.

"Laziness" has triumphed!

--

Edited to add: My son wants to make sure folks know this is a joke. While it is true he doesn't enjoy page-turning, that reasoning was not truly behind the motivation he had to become First Chair.

October 20, 2014

What Other People Think

We aren't supposed to worry about what other people think of us, right?

And yet, we are expected to dress fashionably. Or wear make-up. Instead of recovering after spinal surgery, I was supposed to make sure my house was presentable for the visitors that would come to wish me well. We're told "you never get a second chance to make a first impression" and of course there are entire industries dedicated to improving one's looks or one's social skills. The stats talk about how people need people to survive. We are social beings. People do need people to like them.

Certainly not all people are going to like any given person. But there is definitely both a need and a desire to be as attractive (inside and out) to enough people.

I'm a woman with short hair, and I #StandWithJetta. Please #StopBullying this gorgeous girl!Being teased hurts. It means someone doesn't like you and has encouraged others to hop on the bandwagon.

At the age of nearly 41, I would have thought that my days of being made fun of would be over. But, even adults are not immune to others' taunting disapproval. When my oldest was very young, there were many situations that came up in which I was considered a "bad mother" and shunned appropriately. I simply didn't join playgroups or anything of that nature when my second son came along. Now, it is my youngest son's teammates who have decided that I'm deserving of pointing and laughter.

I'm not sure what set them off (my weight? my hair? my clothing? that I enjoy watching workout at the gym so am there more than other parents?) but they enjoy whispering, laughing, and pointing up to where I sit. My son was in tears during the last workout because he told me his teammates were saying mean things about me. (And no, this wasn't just a round of "Yo Mama" jokes; I know they've done that in the abstract and my son found it funny. This time it was "serious.")

Then today, I learned of a girl in Ohio who is being bullied for cutting her hair for a cancer charity. Her newly short hair isn't societally-acceptable, apparently. Her family has set up a #StandWithJetta Facebook page to support their daughter and to raise money both for Wigs for Kids and for an Anti-Bullying non-profit group.

I #StandWithJetta to #StopBullying: Girls can have short hair too!I definitely feel for Jetta, because I remember what it was like to be looked down upon as a child. I was called "Pig Nose" and worse. I was harrassed for having a large early-developed chest. Of course, my chest size has never stopped being an issue, as it has gotten me lots of unwanted attention. And right now, my hair isn't quite right, so I have to wait for it to fill in a bit. I'm sensitive about it, and so can relate to Jetta. (Although, she's very confident with her new haircut - and it is gorgeous on her.)

Just a few days ago, my son asked if he could get one ear pierced. He's a fifth-grader. I got my ears pierced in the fifth grade. I have no problem with him wearing pink or enjoying sparkles. When he was younger and wanted his hair long, I let him. And when he decided last year that he wanted to go super-short, I let him. It is his hair, after all. (And yes, he got plenty of comments when it was long about how he should cut it; and plenty of compliments when he did cut it short.)

But I admit that the idea of a young man having his ears pierced at the age of only 10 has given me pause. If he were a girl (and not less than 2 months away from gymnastics season where earrings result in a uniform deduction) I wouldn't hesitate. I admit this is the first time that traditional gender roles have swayed me. Now - when he's a bit older (16? 18?) then, yes, I think getting an ear pierced could be pretty cute. (And, it would give him time to make sure he really wants to do it. Because, hair can be cut or can grow, and we can change the clothing we wear, but piercings are more permanent.)

But in some ways, it is like Jetta's case -- because she's 10 and got a pixie haircut. Lots of teenagers and older women have short hair, but most elementary-aged girls have nothing shorter than a chin-length bob. If my son were to get his ear pierced, he'd probably be the only guy in the school with a pierced ear. What would happen, I wonder?

Because at the core, we're worried about what other people think.

October 14, 2014

ViaCord: Future lifesaver for someone you love?

14 years ago I was pregnant and a neuroscience grad studentFourteen years ago, I was a graduate student in neuroscience living in New York, and I was pregnant with my first child. As part of my education, I attended classes and special talks about a variety of scientific topics. Stem cells were seen as a possible research tool and a promising future way to assist treatment of a variety of conditions. Meanwhile, filled with the typical jitters about becoming a mother and wanting to protect my child at all costs, I researched cord blood banking. I wanted to save my son's umbilical cord blood in the event that the newborn stem cells may someday save his life.

Thanks to a special trip hosted by ViaCord from PerkinElmer, I recently found myself back in New York to learn about the current status of cord blood research and treatment. As I had hoped so many years ago, there have indeed been some exciting developments in the field. In fact, cord tissue may eventually become a promising source of treatment support for neurodegenerative diseases.

So what are cord blood and cord tissue stem cells, anyway?

The phrase "stem cells" may strike some initially as controversial. Many people automatically think of embryonic stem cells, and the political and bioethical debates surrounding the source of these cells. But newborn stem cells are present only at birth, and --if not collected-- are simply discarded as medical waste. The potency and flexibility of newborn stem cells may give these cells benefits that adult stem cells don't, like bone marrow, which has a lower likelihood of a successful match.

What can these cord blood and cord tissue cells do?

Newborn stem cells are essentially a blank slate. One of the speakers at our event, Kate Falcon Girard, RN MSN, likened stem cells to vanilla ice cream that can in turn be used to create chocolate chip ice cream or a fancy sundae. Stem cells can differentiate into different tissue types. They can create another stem cell, or differentiate into another cell or tissue type. There are two general types of stem cells: hematopoietic stem cells can differentiate into blood and immune cells, while mesenchymal cells can differentiate into different tissue types like bone, cartilage, muscle, and even neurons.


"Traditional" stem cell transplants: Exist today


"Traditional" cell transplants are hematopoietic stem cell transplants. These are the types of transplants available today, which assist in the treatment of nearly 80 conditions: from cancers to blood disorders to immune disorders.

Perhaps one of the most exciting treatment examples is that of a girl with sickle-cell anemia who received her brother's cord blood stem cells. She's been cured and now has a healthy blood system. 

Research with autologous cord blood stem cells

ViaCord is currently supporting research with the hope that soon cord blood stem cell may assist in the treatment of conditions such as cerebral palsy, Type I diabetes, brain injury, hearing loss, and autism.

At the moment, these therapies are autologous (getting back one's own stem cells that were banked at birth). Perhaps in the future -- like with organ transplant -- the complexities of rejection and graft-versus-host disease can be mitigated such that allogeneic (from a donor) transplant may be possible.

Pre-clinical research with cord tissue

Viacord's supports research in ways cord blood tissue may assist in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases. "Tissue" means extracting the cells from the umbilical cord itself (rather than just the blood inside.) Back when I was pregnant, only the cord blood was preserved. Now, families can preserve cells from the cord tissue as well.

Research is currently in pre-clinical trials, which means animal models are used to study the possibilities that such procedures may be possible in humans. Pre-clinical trials studying neurologic hypoxia (complications of oxygen deprivation) are promising. I'm particularly interested in how cord tissue may someday assist in the treatment of Parkinson's disease. 

Isn't cord blood and tissue banking expensive?

When I was a graduate student fourteen years ago, I knew that the field was still young. At the time, I was thinking about setting aside stem cells in the event that my child developed leukemia. I wondered what the possibility would be that my child would end up being sick. How could I spend so much money on something that might not be used?

Today, there are many more conditions in which stem cells can assist treatment. As time goes on, that list will grow. The value of the banked cord blood and cord tissue will only increase.

ViaCord wants to make cord blood and tissue banking more affordable. They have reduced their upfront fees by 40%. Customers pay an annual fee, of course, so over time the cost of collecting, shipping, and storing the cord blood and tissue is recouped. ViaCord also recommends GoFundMe, an online registry tool where families can set up their own personal page and invite friends and friends can help contribute to this cost. After all, how many itchy little newborn outfits does your baby really need? He'll grow out of those tiny overalls, but his banked newborn stem cells will be there for him his whole life.

There are lots of costs to caring for a newborn. Some of the high-end strollers out there these days are much more expensive than cord blood and tissue collection and storage! It seems extravagant on the surface, but in reality, the investment of banking newborn stem cells can be life-saving.

ViaCord also has a Sibling Connection program that is truly wonderful. Any expectant family who currently has a child with a condition treatable with sibling cord blood may collect their newborn's cord blood and tissue, plus store for five years, at no cost. There are many diseases currently supported by this program, so please spread the word to your friends or family who may be eligible.

Why Choose ViaCord?

There are many cord blood banks out there. Many have come and gone throughout the years, but ViaCord has remained strong for 20 years. ViaCord is also one of the few companies to offer treatment-ready cord tissue collection. While some companies store a small section of the baby's umbilical cord, ViaCord extracts all the cells from the surrounding tissue so that the cells are already primed for treatment before the time comes to use them.

Cord blood newborn stem cell banking: ViaCord demonstration of collection and storage materials

The ViaCord collection kit provides the materials for collecting the cord blood at the hospital and transporting it to the processing lab, where the cells are then preserved in the method they believe will be most beneficial should you need the cells in the future. For example, they have a 80/20 storage bag which enables a small portion of the unit to be used without contaminating the whole sample.

ViaCord is the only bank in the industry that publishes survival rates. This shows that their banked cells actually work! At this point there is 88% unit survival 1 year post-transplant. Take a look at ViaCord's Quality Defined by Outcomes page to learn more. 

But ViaCord is in Massachusetts!

ViaCord's corporate headquarters is in MA and their processing and storage lab is in KY. But, their secure methods of collection, shipping, and storage mean that expectant families from all over the United States can bank through ViaCord. Collection can be done at a home birth, too! Likewise, when a unit is needed to assist treatment, a ViaCord representative will work with the physicians involved in the patient's treatment to ship and prepare the cells.

Please visit ViaCord's website and parentsguidecordblood.org for more information about cord blood and cord tissue collection and storage, and to learn more about the research that may further expand the utility of newborn stem cells.

Thank you to the ViaCord representatives who hosted me. I enjoyed learning more about current research and was pleased to know that the field has indeed evolved tremendously in the fourteen years since I first visited the topic!

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