Usually, when Upstate president David Smith, M.D. addresses a crowd, there is an attentive silence. At today’s groundbreaking for the Upstate Cord Blood Bank, Dr. Smith’s remarks were frequently, happily interrupted from the front row by the very energetic Luca Vassallo. Luca, a leukemia survivor who received treatments with umbilical cord blood, beams with vitality and could not wait for his turn at the microphone.
Dr. Smith deviated from the script and smiled at little Luca. “As a pediatrician, that is what I like to see more than anything. It’s amazing, isn’t it?” The more than 100 people on hand for the event clearly agreed.
The $15 million Upstate facility will be a public cord blood bank– one of just two in New York. Being designated as public means it will accept donations from families all over the region at no cost and the cord blood stored at the facility will be available to anyone that needs it. These donations will allow lives to be saved through transplantation and will fuel research that may help to treat or even cure many diseases.
Geralyn Saya’s son, Jared, was also treated for cancer using cord blood and today he is a cancer-free 9th grader. When the Saya family stepped to the podium, it was Geralyn that spoke. “Usually, when I talk about our cancer journey, I cry,” she began. “But not today. Today is a happy day!”
The Saya’s, like the Vassallo’s, are thrilled that treatments were available that could help their son overcome cancer and that now, with this new facility opening in fall 2014, other families will also have access to them.
To learn more about the Upstate Cord Blood Bank, click here.