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Tag Archive: Stories

  1. ‘Why would somebody not want to give their family the best form of future care?’

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    Ricky Martin, winner of the 2012 The Apprentice, is a business leader, biochemist, and a busy dad, and soon he and his wife Gemma will be welcoming a sister for their two-year-old son Alexander.

    We caught up with Ricky who chose to store Alexander’s umbilical cord blood and tissue with Biovault Family and will also be storing their new baby girl’s stem cells with us.

    Ricky and Gemma hope to raise umbilical stem cell awareness so that more parents have the opportunity to store their own babies’ cord blood and tissue.

    Congratulations on the imminent birth of your second child.

    How are you all?

    Thank you. We are all well and a great mix of excited, nervous and curious all in one while we wait for the arrival of the next addition to our household. This time around it is a little girl, so Alexander has a big job to step up to being a big brother and protecting his little sister (as does his dad as the father of a daughter to be).

    Alexander will be two in November. What does he think of having a new baby sister?

    We have explained to Alexander (AJ as we refer to him which is short for “Alexander James” Martin) what he has to look forward to, but being as young as he is, I cannot say he fully comprehends it yet.

     That said, we have finally got him to say “baby” every time we point to his mum’s belly, which he finds hilarious, so much so, he is constantly pulling up his top, my top, his mum’s top and says baby non-stop. Hopefully, long term, he realises that somebody’s stomach isn’t called a baby, it is just his mum’s had a baby in it while we taught him the word 😊

    Life is going to be very busy with two children under two years old! Have you picked up any good tips for new parents?

    Great question, however, the reality is not really. I think the best piece of advice every parent of two very young children has given us is ‘Good Luck’! The funny thing is everybody said that the first time also!

    As a result we have stopped asking and figured what will be will be. The one thing we have done to prepare is to make sure AJ’s new “big boy” room is all set up ready to transfer him to when out little girl moves to the nursery, and he graduates to his dinosaur adventure room.

    How have you found your first two years as new parents?

    The first two years has been like a fun rollercoaster we will never forget. Ups, downs, twists, thrills, laughs, cries, it had it all. We both definitely think the last two years have aged us by about five. However, what an experience it has been which has brought a new sense of living to our worlds.

     It has grounded us for sure (before we went wherever we wanted, whenever we wanted without thought). However, the purpose, love and new world it has opened up to us has been nothing but incredible. It hasn’t been easy, but nothing in life worth having ever is. We feel so lucky to have AJ in our world.

    Alexander was born after four rounds of IVF, and your second child has been a very happy surprise. How did you feel when you discovered you were pregnant again?

    No fertility journey is straight forward and after the years of battling to have our first child, and almost giving up on occasions, the surprise when things happened naturally with our second came as one big surprise.

     It’s one which of course we are extremely grateful for, and we realise how lucky we are. Only three years ago we thought we would never get to be called parents at all, let alone twice over, and now we’ll have one of each to enjoy and guide in the world. 

    Lots of people said to us after AJ came in to the world that the chances are if we had another it would be natural.

    However, even hearing that after fighting so hard the first time it did not provide confidence. So when we found out, the surprise was just as big and just as miraculous and one we still cannot fully comprehend today.

    IVF can be very difficult for couples and you were very open about your own journey which has inspired other couples. Why do you feel this is important?

    A fertility journey is a lonely and tough one at the best of times. That is before you even need to look for help from someone or somewhere reliable online. We really hope, and still do today, that any parts of our fertility story can help others and build some form of confidence; or at least provide insight to the fact people are not alone. Every single day there are millions of people on the journey, and the more people can do to talk to likeminded people or read and share their experience, the better for everyone.

    We’re so pleased you’ve chosen to bank your new baby’s umbilical cord blood with Biovault Family. Why did you choose us again?

    The simple answer we have here would be why would we not! That is not supposed to sound like a sell to anybody reading this but, the first time around you made the entire process simple, easy and not labour intensive at all (excuse the reference to labour ☹). I run a service company and the one thing I value more than anything is exceptional service. Biovault made us part of the family and provided just that.

    Why do you think banking your baby’s cord blood is important?

    I feel banking cord blood is so important and now I have had one child, I feel more strongly about this than ever. I now have a son who I would do anything to protect, support and provide for. If one day he needed some medical intervention to support his well being I would do everything in my power to ensure he got this. 

    Banking cord blood gives me one way I could do that. When we had AJ the logic in me said this made sense, as it would help if the worse case happened (which of course we hope we would not need it for). However, now the parent in me says this is an absolute no brainer.

    Newborn cell banking remains unfamiliar and misunderstood in this country. Why do you think this is?

    I think this is because most things in the scientific or medical field tend to turn people off as without a triple PhD most people do feel less certain about what it all means. Compound this with a newborn baby and I can see why people are unfamiliar or don’t want to understand more because their focus is on their baby.

    The reality is I don’t think it needs to be complicated or misunderstood. I can’t say many people know the inner workings of insurance and how things are priced or assessed. Most people do not want to have to use it either as it means you have had a claim and things are serious. That said  we all take insurance for that new car we buy. So why not do it for our newborn, which we cannot simply replace, repair or give back. Why not give our child the chance of critical media care if we one day need it? And the best thing is the price you pay for the service does not last a year – it is for decades!

    As a scientist yourself, how important is it to help spread awareness of umbilical cord blood banking?

    As a scientist I have always been fascinated with how things work and how things can be done better. Umbilical core blood banking is a simple way we can provide our child, children or even provide some support to parent (as such banking is 50% compatible with each parent) future medical protection. Why would somebody not want to give their family the best form of future care and this is a simple way of doing so. To spread awareness provides support for more people to follow suit, and hopefully live a better live, if the unexpected happens one day. 

    Do you think this service should be more widely accessible?

    I would love to see the service more widely available. As I have already referred to car insurance and protecting your shiny new vehicle, why shouldn’t we all protect and have some the most important part of our worlds. There is nothing more special than a child, and making it more available will only support every child’s future.

    Having won The Apprentice in 2012, you are now one of the most successful Apprentice winners. Can we ask, what is the secret to your success?

    It is funny you ask as it is so long ago that I forget I was even part of the process. That may sound like an odd thing to say but day to day life runs away with all of us, especially when running an international business and being father to a young family.

    Success is measured by so many things and likely a few years ago I would have said absolutely, I am the most successful winner based on company finances, performance, scope, scale and sustainability, however today you would get a different response. For me being able to grow a multi-site company while going through a fertility journey with my wife, then becoming a dad with no local family network to support, and successfully guiding AJ through the first 2 years of his life, that to me is successful. If that means I am the most successful winner… then yes I am 😉

    And finally, many of our friends would love to know, what is it like working with Sir Alan Sugar?

    I would love to spoil the illusion and tell people the reality is different to what they see on TV and we are the best of friends who cinema on weekends and chit chat over WhatsApp, however the TV and the day to day Lord Sugar (yep I am still saying Lord Sugar) are one and the same. A few years ago he published a book called “What You See Is What You Get” and those words couldn’t summarise the relationship better. If he doesn’t like something you know about it. If he does like something he probably wont say it in such reassuring words. But in a sales company I like working with black and white parameters which he presents. Too many people try to be too many colours in between sometimes and that simply confuses things. For me what I signed up for, is what I get, and that is what makes me happy.

  2. Healing the heart of baby Thorben

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    Joanne and Kjell Olsen’s son Thorben was born with a serious heart defect. Now a fully healthy four month old baby, Joanne describes what it was like finding out how her son would die if he didn’t have major heart surgery, and how her medical research led her to safe guarding his future with umbilical cord blood banking

    Thorben Olsen is just like any other five month old baby – gorgeous, squidgy and adorable – with his devoted mum Joanne, dad Kjell and older sisters Teagan and Thea plying him with love and attention during these tough weeks of lock down.

    It’s hard to believe that he’s had major open heart surgery, and was first operated on just two hours after he was born by C-section on December 11.

    Now he’s a healthy baby, with barely a scar as a reminder of the ordeal he has been through.

    At 20 weeks gestation Thorben was diagnosed with transposition of the great arteries (TGA). TGA is a serious but rare heart defect present at birth (congenital), in which the two main arteries leaving the heart are reversed (transposed).  

    It changes the way blood circulates through the body, leaving a lack of oxygen in blood flowing from the heart to the rest of the body. Without an adequate supply of oxygen-rich blood, the body can’t function properly and the baby faces serious complications or death without treatment.

    It was a huge shock to Joanne and her family but to try and calm herself she set about researching the condition, spending hours on the internet reading in-depth medical papers so that she was prepared for every outcome.

    At the same time she came across cord blood banking, more by fate than intention.

    Joanne explains: “I was admitted at 20 weeks with suspected thrombosis. The next day our baby was due his 20 week scan, and that’s when we found out we were having a boy with a heart problem.

    “I was a wreck, although you try and stay positive through everything. My husband and I have been together for 20 years and we’ve talked about children throughout that time.

    “When we talked about a family I always pictured myself with boys and I’d waited 20 years for this boy. At 20 weeks I found out I was having a boy and less than 5 minutes later that he had a heart defect. With that came the prospect of losing him.

    “I was googling like crazy anything I could find on TGA, looking for medical journals and practice papers. I calmed myself when I saw the outcome for TGA surgery was good, and then something popped up on Sky News about a study on the potential regeneration of heart tissue using stem cells.”

    Armed with this knowledge Joanne set about learning more about the umbilical cord blood banking services available in the UK, and chose Biovault Family.

    Joanne said: “The website is so open with all the information you need there and you don’t feel pressured into having a conversation. 

    “Nikki Driver looked after me and she was wonderful. She offered us a military discount and whenever she called she’d chat to me and was so genuine, letting me cry with her and laugh with her. 

    “She had time for us and was dedicated and she’d just pick up the phone to see how we were doing. There was never any pressure.

    “I want to make sure my son’s blood and cord tissue are in the best place. I want someone who is as invested in my son as I am and that’s why I chose Biovault Family.”

    “People forget that these illnesses and problems can occur later in life and once the cord is cut, you won’t get the stems cells and cord blood. You can only use marrow which is more trauma to a child who may already be suffering with illness such as cancer.

    “You never know what is coming and I know I would sooner spend money on storage and harvest than anything else.”

    The rest of Joanne’s pregnancy passed without incident, and Joanne and Kjell made their way to Southampton Hospital, the primary paediatric cardiac specialists in their area two hours away from home.  – Joanne’s parents moved in to look after the girls who stayed in Oxfordshire –  on their initial due date of December 10, knowing they might be there for anything from two to six weeks.

    However, Joanne’s surgery was postponed as no neonatal intensive care beds were available and Thorben was delivered the next day.

    Joanne said: “Dawn Mackenzie, the phlebotomist, was amazing, She arrived on December 10 at 6 in the morning, staying till midday when the surgery was postponed. She returned the next day and stayed until after Thorben was born, saying goodbye in the post op recovery room. She was fabulous in the surgery and kept me informed of the process, showing me the cord and the blood. She was amazing and very reassuring.

    “Thorben was born blue because his body was lacking oxygen. His oxygen saturation at first was 75%, but that’s because while he was inside me he was perfectly safe as my placenta was providing him with everything. But once they cut the umbilical cord he was on his own and within an hour of him being born his oxygen was down to 20%. At just two hours old, he had to have a balloon septostomy.”

    Thorben had open heart surgery at a week old on December 18 with further complications addressed successfully by his two doctors. One week later he was discharged on Christmas day.

    “He’s been absolutely fine. We’ve had two cardiac appointments at one and three months old, and there’s not even a heart murmur and everything is going really well,” said Joanne. 

    “We’ve been in isolation because my son is registered on the vulnerable list. I took the stance that because he wasn’t healed I wasn’t going to risk any outside infection so I asked people to stay away for the first six weeks he was home. I think I’ve been out five times, as we then went into lock down.

    Luckily our garden is quite big!”

    There’s a long list of people to thank, including the doctors who first identified the problem and those who operated on him, the RAF who gave Kjell 12 weeks leave so that he can safely isolate with his family, their parents and the local Covid support group.

    Joanne said: “Everyone has been so understanding and we’ve had a very positive experience throughout it all, and Thorben is a strong and healthy baby.”

    Joanne and her family are now raising money and awareness for the charity Tiny Tickers which improves the early detection and care of babies with serious heart conditions.