Leicestershire mums Mandy Kelly and Amy Winston-Hart back stem cell call
The mothers of two girls given stem cell transplants taken from umbilical cords are backing a campaign to increase awareness of the treatment.
Mums Mandy Kelly and Amy Winston-Hart are supporting an e-petition set up on the Department of Health website.
Their daughters, Eve Kelly and Eva Winston-Hart, are enjoying their half-term holidays like any other nine-year-olds. But the fact they are here at all is down umbilical stem cell transplants.
Eve, of Scraptoft, Leicester, was given her life-saving transplant in December 2010 at Birmingham Children's Hospital, months after being diagnosed with myeloid leukaemia.
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"We want all expecting mothers to be consulted on donating their baby's umbilical cord at birth and for more midwives to be trained to collect cords so the stem cells – the body's building blocks – can be harvested," said Mandy.
"It's a pretty straightforward procedure but it saved Eve's life.
"The problem is, too many mothers don't even know about it and only a few hospitals in the country offer the facility."
Stem cells from the cords are injected into a leukaemia patient's blood and can rebuild their damaged immune system so they can fight the cancer.
A programme to collect umbilical cords has been running in Leicester for over two years, with cords taken to the Anthony Nolan Trust's Cell Therapy Centre, in Nottingham.
Amy Winston-Hart, of Market Harborough, whose daughter Eva was given a stem cell transplant to treat her leukaemia in May 2007, said: "Luckily, the facility of saving a baby's umbilical cord is now available in Leicester, but only between 9am and 5pm.
"We need to get every hospital to offer this facility 24 hours a day to all pregnant mums."
The e-petition was set up by the family of Charlie Harris-Beard, who died on Friday, aged two. Mandy said: "We know the family, having met them at Birmingham Children's Hospital.
"They are so brave. The petition has only been going for a few days but over 17,000 people have already signed up, which is amazing."
Guy Parkes, head of special projects at the Anthony Nolan Trust, said: "We're grateful for the support of all those who have signed this petition, highlighting the life-saving potential of cord blood donation."
A Department of Health spokesman said: "A total of £8 million has been allocated towards the target of 50,000 high quality banked cords."