ATLANTA - When Grady Memorial Hospital labor and delivery nurse Lorena Garcia Diaz gave birth to her two youngest daughters at the Atlanta hospital, she didn't think twice about donating their leftover umbilical cord blood.
She knew the blood, left over from her daugthers' umbilical cord and placenta was rich in stem cells that might help treat sick strangers.
"It's just a personal, it was no questions asked," Diaz says. "I was ready to sign the paper when it was time."
Diaz's baby's umbilical cord blood, was shipped to Carolinas Cord Blood Bank, run by Duke Health, a public, not-for-profit cord blood bank, where it's stored and used to treat people with blood and bone marrow disorders like leukemia, lymphoma and sickle cell disease.
"Well, I was given the gift of life with my two precious babies," Diaz says. "So I decided to give that life back to someone who needed it as well."
A lack of minority donors like Diaz is major challenge, Dr. Michael Lindsay, Director of the Grady Division of Maternal and Fetal Medicine, says.
That shortage means minority patients have a harder time finding a match for a stem cell transplant.
"We actually at as team here at Grady that approaches the mothers as they go into labor," Dr. Lindsay says. "And they go over the potential pros and cons of being a cord blood donor."
Cord blood collection is painless, and free, when it goes to a public cord blood bank.
Each year about 300 new Grady moms, or about 10 percent of the women who give birth here, donate their baby's cord blood, no strings attached.
"One of the potential cons is that people are under the mistaken belief that if they donate cord blood that it would belong to them and it will be used for their personal benefit," Dr. Lindsey says.
But Lorena Diaz likes knowing her gifts might help another mother's child beat the odds.
"I wouldn't want to be the parent that has a kid who is sick," she says. "And if I did, I would love to find the help I needed immediately or as quick as possible."