DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Even before a baby is born, parents face a major decision, whether or not to save their child’s umbilical cord blood.
Cord blood holds a wealth of stem cells that can be used later to cure fatal diseases. But some blood banks are letting patients down, and even putting children’s lives at risk, by breaking their promises.
“I never dreamed my kid would need it.”
Crystal Prince didn’t want to take any chances after her son Trenton was born. So she decided to save his cord blood, and paid a company called BioBancUSA more than $2,000 to store it for 18 years.
“You’re putting your faith in a company that could one day save a family member.”
She didn’t give it a second thought, until her second child, a girl named Trinity, was born.
Doctors believe Trinity might have a very serious illness. They’re still running medical tests, but depending upon the diagnosis her brother’s cord blood could hold the cure.
“I have cried and cried for my daughter,” says Crystal.
This summer she tried to contact BioBancUSA in Monterrey, California. She tried sending emails and calling all hours of the day, but got no answer.
“All these questions go through your mind…is my blood there? Has the business gone under? Is the blood missing?” asks Prince.
Prince lives in the Montague County town of Sunset, 1,600 miles away from the blood bank, so she turned to CBS 11 for help. “It’s a piece of hope I hold on to with that cord blood, and if that cord blood is gone, that hope, that help, that chance is gone.”
CBS 11 traveled to Monterrey looking for answers, and found a company in trouble.
The BioBancUSA offices were completely empty. The only proof they were ever there is a sign that was supposed to be hanging on the wall leaning on the floor near the entry way.
But parents across the country may still think the company is still storing their children’s life saving cord blood.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is charged with regulating companies that store cord blood, but CBS 11 checked the records and found it had been two years since the FDA had done an inspection at BioBancUSA.
The California Department of Health Services admits BioBancUSA should have been shut down because it did not have a medical director in place, and hadn’t had one since October of 2010. The state admits all of the blood should have been transported last year.
After CBS 11 started starting investigating why regulators hadn’t stepped in, the State of California automatically revoked BioBanc’s license for failing to “maintain records” and “not monitoring the temperature” of storage devices.
All the while continuing to collect money from customers.
The state eventually transported the blood to a facility in Los Angeles called FamilyCord. That’s where CBS 11 located a tank marked with BiobancUSA’s logo. “August first we took possession,” Family Cord spokesman Scott Brown told CBS 11.
Crystal Prince’s missing cord blood was finally found.
This is not the first time family cord has taken over a tank. The FDA has shut down cord blood banks before. Several others have gone bankrupt.
“It is one of the risks people take when they use a small bank… if you can’t maintain enough business, it’s hard to keep doors open,” says Brown.
Crystal Prince is not alone.
The Edwards family also stored their son’s cord blood at BioBancUSA.
“It’s almost an insurance policy for the worst possible scenario,” says Larry Edwards.
They’ve found their cord blood, but the Edwards’ say they have a new worry. “We don’t know if it’s viable or not.”
Cord blood can’t be tested unless it’s thawed. But once it’s thawed, it can’t be stored…and must be used immediately.
A person never really knows until it may be time, or it’s too late. “Ultimately there will be no guarantees,” says Brown. “There is no way to have complete assurance without ruining it.”
One person who probably knows how well the tank was maintained is Robert Hayner, the owner of BioBancUSA.
CBS 11 tried to find him at his Pebble Beach, California home. His wife told CBS 11″It had been a tough two years” and insisted Hayner would return our call, which has not happened.
CBS 11 learned Hayner filed bankruptcy earlier this year, and owes up to 99 creditors up to $10 million.
“I feel deceived by the company,” says Prince.
These parents just want the answers they’re owed.
FamilyCord, the new company that is storing the cord blood, is testing some control samples in the tank.
They say they’ll let parents know if those samples are okay. But parents won’t know if their children’s cord blood is viable until they thaw it for use.