The mother of one young cancer survivor describes the treatment that saved her son's life a classic "trash to treasure" story. An anonymous family donated blood from tissue normally considered medical waste. That tissue helped him beat the disease once and for all. Our Sarah Blazonis stopped by the groundbreaking of a new Syracuse facility that plans to offer that same hope for generations to come.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- When Jared Saya had a relapse of leukemia at four-years-old, time was not on his side.
"It takes about six months to find a bone marrow transplant, an unrelated donor, and a lot of people don't have that kind of time. Jared was one of those ones," said Jared's mom, Geralyn Saya.
Help came for Jared in the form of a cord blood transplant. The blood is taken from umbilical cords and placentas that are considered medical waste and are rich in stem cells. It's the source of 25 percent of all stem cell transplants.
"It's very much like a transfusion, which is how it enters the body, and then migrates to the bone marrow and then starts anew. It starts afresh the ability to take care of and replace what had been problematic," said David Smith, President of SUNY Upstate.
Now considered a cancer survivor, Jared and his family took part in a groundbreaking ceremony Monday at the future site of SUNY Upstate's Cord Blood Bank.
The $15 million facility being built on Upstate's Community Campus will be only the second public cord blood bank in the entire state. That means it will be free to donate and the cord blood will be available to anyone who needs it.
Officials say just as exciting as the patients that can be helped with illnesses from cancer to sickle cell are the generations that will benefit from research done at the bank.
"Medicine is shifting from kind of reactive to proactive. We're predicting disease, we're trying to prevent disease, we're trying to personalize therapy now and this allows us to do that," said Robert Corona, a professor and chair of Upstate's Pathology and Lab Medicine Department.
Jared and his family say they're hoping expectant parents consider the procedure.
"If they're just throwing it in the trash anyway, why don't they try to save someone's life?" Jared said.
And give more people a second chance at life.
SUNY Upstate plans to work with hospitals to develop guidelines for donation once the bank opens in 2014. Officials expect to receive about 10,000 donations per year.