Jared Saya was 2 when his mother brought him to Upstate University Hospital’s pediatric emergency department with bruises on his arm. She thought he had fallen. He had cancer.
“We stayed at Upstate for six months from that day, getting chemotherapy,” recalls his mother, Geralyn Saya of Syracuse. For 18 months he was in remission.
Then at age 4, Jared relapsed. Doctors said he needed an infusion of healthy stem cells, since his bone marrow was not producing enough. So he underwent a stem cell transplant, relying on the generosity of an anonymous mother who donated blood from her newborn baby’s umbilical cord or placenta. Jared was hospitalized in isolation for five months, in Rochester since Upstate did not offer stem cell transplants at the time.
Jared is 14 today, a freshman soccer player at Christian Brothers Academy who also plays for the indoor club team, Fusion. He recently attended the groundbreaking ceremony for Upstate’s new $15 million public cord blood bank.
The bank, being built at Upstate University Hospital’s Community campus in Onondaga, will store cord blood donations that may be used in treatment or for research. It is expected to open in 2014. Eventually, Upstate may offer cord blood transplants.
“Through the donations of cord blood from families all across our region, we have the ability to save lives through transplantation and further fuel the biomedical research that may move us closer in finding breakthroughs for dozens of diseases,” Upstate president David Smith MD told The Post-Standard newspaper.
For all the promise cord blood transplants carry, Saya says she would change one practice. She would like to know who donated the stem cells that changed her son’s blood type and allowed him to become healthy again.
“Somebody saved my son’s life, and they don’t even know that. What a gift to give somebody. And they have no idea.
“I can only thank everybody who donates.”
Listen to an interview about the new cord blood center.