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Emma's Story: Spina Bifida Surgery With Cord Blood

February 2020


Emma's Story: Spina Bifida Surgery With Cord BloodLittle Emma was born in 2015. During the pregnancy, her parents learned that their baby had malformations of the spine. The diagnosis was spina bifida, which was determined at the 35th week of gestation.

“It was the first anniversary of our wedding,” said Emma’s mother Daria, “my husband and I went to an ultrasound scan to see our daughter, and we learned this terrible news. I had never heard of such a disease before. I didn’t even look for any information, as till the birth of my baby, I hoped that the doctors had been mistaken, and my daughter was healthy.”

Subsequently, it turned out that preparing for the birth of a baby with such a diagnosis was rather complicated. “Maternity hospitals refused me one by one,” recalls Daria.

“Only doctors of Maternity Hospital No. 5 in Kiev agreed to perform a caesarean section if we found a neurosurgeon who would immediately operate on my daughter. Pavel Plavskiy was such a neurosurgeon. It was he who said that it was necessary to collect cord blood, because it would help our daughter during the operation.”

There is nothing in the world more important to an expecting mother than the anticipation of holding her new baby. But sometimes, when it becomes known that the baby will be born with congenital malformations, parents have to postpone the time for dreams and focus on the problem.

Daria says that she became obsessed with making sure they did everything possible to help save the life of her new daughter. One task she took very seriously was the responsibility to keep the cord blood collection kit with her in the hospital.

“When I was in the intensive care unit before caesarean section, HEMAFUND cord blood bank couriers brought a container to collect umbilical cord blood. I constantly kept this red handbag in sight, and I was very scared when I had forgotten to take it with me to the caesarean section procedure.” Despite her advanced pregnancy and having an intravenous drip in her arm, she did not even allow the nurse to go and bring the container. She went for the red bag herself. “Then I constantly tried to keep my eyes on this bag during the operation. Even when I saw my daughter, I only thought that the doctors would not forget to collect the umbilical cord blood. I only calmed down when the container with cord blood of my daughter was handed over to the specialists of HEMAFUND.”

A few hours after birth, Emma was transferred to the neurosurgical department of Okhmatdet specialized hospital. The cord blood was delivered there in a timely manner by HEMAFUND.

“The operation was very complicated. There was a hernia on Emma’s spine, into which the roots of the spinal cord sprouted” is how Daria describes it. The surgeon had to place the spinal cord in the correct position and remove the hernia. Recovery after the surgical operation was quick and encouraging enough. In a month, Emma was discharged from the hospital, and the worst was over. Daria feels “sure that everything went so well thanks to the use of cord blood”.

The neurosurgeon Dr. Plavskiy conducted a study in which 39 children with spina bifida received intravenous infusions of their autologous cord blood. This type of surgery is performed almost immediately after birth, and the cord blood was administered in fresh condition. The motivation for giving the cord blood during surgery was to replenish blood loss and stimulate stem cell mediated repair. The children were followed for 16 months after surgery and demonstrated improvement in both range of motion and functions of the pelvic organs.

Today, the only reminders of Emma’s condition are regular medical examinations and some weakness in her legs. Her parents admit that the challenges they face now are mainly because spina bifida is not well known in their community.

Spina bifida is a birth defect in which there is incomplete closing of the vertebrae in the spine and the membranes around the spinal cord during early development of pregnancy. Among the reasons for spina bifida, doctors name folic acid deficiency, a genetic predisposition, the use of certain drugs by the mother, and poorly managed diabetes. Spina bifida is one of the most common congenital defects that lead to disabilities. Serious cases of spina bifida can usually be detected during pregnancy by fetal ultrasound. There is no known cure for the nerve damage caused by spina bifida, but when surgery is performed shortly after birth it can prevent further neurologic damage by closing the opening in the spine and draining any accumulated cerebral spinal fluid.