When my second son was born, we paid to have his cord blood banked and frozen in case anyone in the family became ill and in need of stem cells. Most families don’t have the luxury of this high-priced service and without a donor, Canadians can lose their lives. Science has come so far, but Canada is the only G8 country that doesn’t have a national public cord blood program. Currently there are 1000 people awaiting a stem cell match. Canadian Blood Services has launched the Climb4Cord to help change that. At a pricetag of $48 million, it is no small undertaking. As I write, my husband Derek Amery is representing UrbanDaddies by climbing Kilimanjaro for a Canadian blood cord bank. The 25 climbers had a goal of raising $500,000 and they have thankfully surpassed their goal.
Corporate sponsorship has been another huge component of the undertaking. The title sponsor, ING DIRECT provided a $100,000 donation and in-kind sponsorship. B.C. native and ING DIRECT’s Head of Social Media, Jaime Stein, is also on the 19,000-foot climb and has been sharing the team’s experiences on social media via satellite tools. I am thankful that Jaime is a social media nut like me, as I’m getting information on UrbanDaddies from the mountain via satellite phone! Dr. Graham Sher, CEO of Canadian Blood Services has also been tweeting from the mountain and supporting the climbers. His passion and commitment to the cause is astonishing.
In order to train for the climb, Derek did 2 x 4-6 hour hikes weekly over several months and will be in Tanzania and traveling for 19 days. Despite the advances in tech, communication is difficult and the team is due to summit in 2 days. Needless to say, I am worried sick. Altitude sickness, injury and rockslides have been cluttering my dreams. Balancing my own worry with an outward facade of strength for the kids is tough. (But not as tough as a 9 day climb up a mountain so I’m good). Our close friend summited Everest last year and we were all nervous for him. I think as a result of that, our boys keep asking if daddy will come back and if he is going to die. As hard as it has been as the spouse of a climber, I look at our kids every day and am so grateful for their health. Every child deserves the same chance.
The cord bank is intended to improve access to stem cell transplants for patients in need by dramatically increasing the likelihood of finding a match. According to Canadian Blood Services, the bank will collect, process, test and store donated cord blood units and they’ll be available to patients both nationally and internationally who are in need of a stem cell transplant. Cord blood stem cell transplants can be used to treat more than 50 blood related diseases and disorders.
You can watch the climbers’ progress via GPS and if you would like to donate to the cause every bit will help. We’ll be publishing an interview with Derek Amery on his return. Please send your positive energy over to Africa and get ready to celebrate the summit day with us!
The bank is set to go live in September, initially with a manufacturing site and two collection hospitals in Ottawa. A Toronto hospital will come on board by the end of the year, followed by an Edmonton manufacturing site and collection hospital in 2014. A BC hospital will follow later next year, the exact location is still under negotiation.
The climb began on Tuesday, August 6th, 2013 and will stretch until Wednesday, August 14th, 2013. Monday, August 12th is SUMMIT DAY. Keep an eye out for summit updates.