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Ilya’s Cord Blood Story

Prosinec 2019
HEMAFUND & Svitlana Shevchenko


Ilya - first CorD heart surgery patientIlya was the very first child to have open-heart surgery with his own cord blood under the HEMAFUND CorD Program.  Now it is 10 years later and Ilya is a normal healthy kid.

In 2009, Svitlana Shevchenko was preparing for the birth of her first child in the Ukraine town of Kryvyi Rih, when doctors diagnosed her unborn baby with congenital heart defects. She did not want to believe this was correct. It was the 20th week of pregnancy, but the doctors said they were certain, and they strongly recommended terminating the pregnancy.

“I couldn’t even hear about that!” – Svitlana recalls - “How can you get rid of a child that you feel inside yourself every second, listen to its movements and already love more than anything in the world.”

Svitlana went to the city of Kherson for an additional assessment, and from there she was immediately sent to a hospital in the capital city Kyiv. All the doctors were talking about heart defects. In the capital’s Center of Children’s Cardiology and Cardiosurgery, the final diagnosis of the congenital heart defects sounded like a death sentence: ventricular septal defect and transposition of the great vessels.

Therefore, when Svitlana was told about the possibility of performing surgery on her son’s heart shortly after birth using umbilical cord blood, she did not hesitate for a moment.

On September 25, 2009, Svitlana gave birth to Ilya in Maternity Home #5 in Kyiv, where the institution’s specialists provided a high level of safety over the course of childbirth. The boy was immediately taken to the Center of Children’s Cardiology and Cardiosurgery, where he had open-heart surgery a few days later. During surgery, Ilya’s own umbilical cord blood was used to provide circulation through the heart-lung machine, instead of relying on donor blood. The surgery went well. The mom and the baby were discharged from the hospital promptly. Ilya started recovering faster than other children did after similar surgeries.

Ilya - first CorD heart surgery patientRight now in Ukraine, for every 1000 newborns there are from 7 to 14 children born with congenital heart defects; half of them require surgical intervention in the first days of life.

Specialists at the Center of Children’s Cardiology and Cardiosurgery, in partnership with biotechnological expertise from HEMAFUND, were the first ones in the world to use umbilical cord blood during surgeries on the hearts of newborns. The idea of using the child’s own umbilical cord blood instead of donor blood in newborn heart surgery was developed jointly by cardiac surgeon Ilya Emetz and the founder of HEMAFUND Yaroslav Isakov. Compared to donated adult blood, the newborn’s umbilical cord blood is enriched with additional chemicals and stem cells, is saturated with oxygen, and does not create an additional load on the immune system of the patient. Today this technique is known to pediatric heart surgeons across the world as the HEMAFUND CorD Program, and is approved by the Ukraine Ministry of Health as protocol #619 from 23.07.2010.

Now Ilya is 10 years old. The boy is cheerful and active. “So lively and active that sometimes it annoys me,” Svitlana laughs. Medical indications prohibit Ilya to engage in sports professionally, but Ilya rides a bicycle and a Penny skateboard with pleasure, and adores soccer. Every year the Shevchenko family brings their son for routine examination to the Kyiv Center of Children’s Cardiology and Cardiosurgery. The results comfort the parents, and Ilya is captivated by the beauty of the capital of Ukraine and dreams of moving to live from Kryvyi Rih to Kyiv.

“Now I don’t even want to remember the pain and fear we had to endure” Svitlana admits - “I only advise everyone I know to store umbilical cord blood to take care of the protection of children. Because I do not forget about my gratitude to the doctors of the cardiology center and specialists from HEMAFUND who helped save my son!”

HEMAFUND implements collection, processing and preparation of umbilical cord blood for newborns with heart defects under the CorD program free of charge.