“The third time is the first time”
In March 2013 Heidi and Troels Vestbjerg Bavnhøj had their third child at Holbæk Hospital – a delightful little girl who the parents were proud to show to anyone who came by to greet the family.
There are other children in the family besides the newborn; Sofie aged 7 and Tobias – 3 years old. However, it was at their little sister’s birth that the family had umbilical cord cells collected for storage for the first time.
”Otherwise, I wish we had stored stem cells from our elder children”, says Heidi. ”Sofie was born in Sweden where there are public stem cell banks and during my pregnancy we were informed of the option to donate stem cells from our newborn baby’s umbilical cord to “the bank”, which we were very positive about. Nothing happened, however, because Sofie was born in a hurry – 2 months earlier, so there were other things to think about.”
When Tobias was to come to the world in 2009, our family had moved to Denmark and here neither the doctor nor the midwife told them anything about the option of collecting umbilical cord cells, so Heidi and Troels were not aware that they had any saying at all in Denmark.
”If we had known that this was possible, we would have definitely done it; but finding things out here in Denmark happens obviously completely by chance. In our case, we knew about stem cell storage because I did water aerobics during my pregnancy and had birth preparing classes with midwife Louise Zilienski from Storkereden.nu. She was really good at informing us and answering our questions, which led to our search for storage possibilities and the prospects of stem cells – both at StemCare and online.
I actually think that it is too bad that public authorities don’t tell pregnant women anything about such an opportunity when it exists. It is, after all, an opportunity that will never present itself again,” ascertains Heidi.
We Have Done What We Could
Heidi and Troels are well aware that it is not certain whether a little brother’s or little sister’s umbilical cord stem cells will be used in the future. Regardless of what happens, it is a nice feeling knowing that you have done everything you possibly could. ”With the enormous development in the field of stem cells in the past few years, it means a lot to us to be able to ensure that our child – and with a little luck also siblings – will have usable stem cells at their disposal, if they should need them later on. With everything that can be cured using stem cells today – imagine what could be done in 30 years!” adds Troels. He and Heidi keep their fingers crossed that little brother’s/little sister’s stem cells will be able to help Sofie if she develops late complications of a premature birth at some point.
Even though Heidi and Troels are happy to have earmarked umbilical cord cells at their disposal in a private bank, they are puzzled that the public sector in Denmark does not offer pregnant women the option of having umbilical cord stem cells collected as in Sweden.
”Despite the good funding opportunities, probably not everyone will be able to pay DKK 18,000 at a time when you also have to purchase everything from a pushchair to nappies, blankets and high chair.
An instalment-free loan is available through StemCare’s partners for those who cannot afford private storage at the moment. Alternatively, families should be offered to donate stem cells to a public bank and, if applicable, to research. When our neighbouring country offers it, it is odd that it is not done here at home. Apparently we are a little behind,” concludes Troels.