Tag Archive: Stories

  1. Why key influencers are banking their baby’s cord blood

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    Cord blood banking takes off in celebrity circles – why celebs are banking their babies’ cord blood.

    Stem cells are extraordinary. Those left in your baby’s cord blood after the birth is especially powerful, able to regenerate every kind of damaged blood cell. So far cord blood stem cells are being used to treat more than 80 diseases including cancers like leukaemia and lymphoma, inherited immune system and immune-cell disorders, sickle cell disease and anaemia, and Gaucher disease. But they can also help treat other immune, blood and neurological disorders.

    No wonder so many parents are storing their children’s cord blood. And it’s no surprise a growing group of ethical, forward-thinking celebrity movers and shakers is getting involved, choosing a company called Biovault Family to bank their baby’s umbilical cord blood.  

    The experts at Biovault Family have been working with key celebrity influencers who have banked their own baby’s cord blood, and who want to help spread the word. Take Portia Jett, who is married to the British television and radio presenter and actor Ore Oduba. In October the couple had their second baby Genie, brother to Roman. As Portia says, “For us, as a family, it was the right decision. If the unthinkable were ever to happen and we could save or help our children and other family members with stem cells, why wouldn’t we? 

    Because these cells can treat over 80 diseases it was a no brainer for us. We just hope more families look into this whilst pregnant. Biovault is a brilliant company, run with compassion and heart at the forefront of everything they do. They just want to help expectant parents in any way they can.”

    Last year television presenter, model, and fashion journalist Louise Roe and her husband Mackenzie Hunkin choose to bank their baby’s Inès’ cord blood with Biovault Family. Like all parents, the couple was determined to do everything in their power to keep their new baby safe. Louise says, “Stem cells have the ability to be life-changing and life-saving, with more and more discoveries being made each year, this was a very important thing for us to do as a family.

    We decided to bank our newborn daughter’s stem cells using Biovault, after having a long chat with them over the phone. They’re the only place in the UK that has their own storage facility and an insurance policy that means if anything happens to the company, our baby’s cells will still be looked after for 50 years.” 

    The diseases this can help treat and cure are very wide-spanning, and the list is growing. I do feel a huge sense of security knowing we have invested in our baby’s health and future.

    Louise Roe

    Ricky Martin, the winner of The Apprentice in 2012, is another Biovault Family convert along with his wife Gemma. They used Biovault Family for the second time in 2020 after the birth of their baby daughter. As Ricky commented, “My family and I decided to bank our newborn daughter’s stem cells using Biovault. All it took was a detailed phone call and we were convinced. As the only place in the UK offering Escrow protection, our baby’s cells will be kept safe for 50 years whatever happens to the company. It felt like the perfect solution and it’s great to know the cells we’ve saved might one day save a family member’s life”. 

    Collecting umbilical cord stem cells offers parents a revolutionary way to protect their child’s well-being in the future. So how about the money side of things? Is there a celebrity price tag? While the cost can put some people off, it isn’t expensive to collect and store cord blood stem cells when you consider the cells are held safe for as long as 50 years.

    To help out, Biovault Family offers a 0% payment plan from 3 months to 22 months, bringing the potential of stem cell therapy to reality for ordinary families across the UK. You can store for as little as £695.

    Get in touch to find out more about Cord Blood Banking – Download our brochure or call 01752 753723 to talk to our lovely team to find out more.

  2. Biovault is a brilliant run company with compassion and heart

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    Portia Jett is married to British television, radio presenter and actor Ore Oduba and in October the couple had their second baby Genie, a brother to Roman. They chose to bank her precious umbilical cord blood with Biovault Family.

    Here they talk about their experience with Biovault Family.

    What was your experience like of umbilical cord blood banking with Biovault Family?

    From the moment we started the process to store Genie’s umbilical cord blood it has been so straightforward and really easy. The team, especially Jo, was on hand if we had any questions and had all the information we needed.

    How did you feel when your cord blood banking kit arrived? 

    We were both so excited! We had wanted to look into umbilical cord blood banking with Roman but never got round to it which we regret, so having the opportunity to do it this time around with Genie was brilliant. Also, the kit comes in a really beautiful, decorative box which is a bonus!

    Did it all go smoothly with the phlebotomist?

    It did, yes. The information and details supplied by Biovault make it very easy to follow especially when you are in labour and you have A LOT to think about. You are given your phlebotomist number in advance as well as a backup number just in case. So, everything is very well thought through. 

    The stem cells in cord blood can currently be used to treat more than 80 diseases. How important do you think it is to spread the word about the importance of cord blood banking?

    For us as a family, it was the right decision. If the unthinkable were ever to happen and we could save/help our children/family members with the use of the stem cells why wouldn’t you? With them being able to treat over 80 diseases it was a no brainer for us and we just hope more families look into this whilst pregnant.

    What would you say to anyone who has never heard about stem cell banking?

    Check it out! The team at Biovault are always on the other end of the phone to help talk you through the process and for you to find out more.

    What can we do to help more people become aware of the importance of banking cord blood?

    It needs to be talked about more within parenting groups maybe including NCT classes. It does come at an additional cost and we understand this, but if you can, we do believe parents should be made aware of the benefits of storing the cord before it is disposed of.

    What has your experience been like with Biovault Family?

    It’s been such a positive experience and one I would recommend to anyone. Biovault is a brilliantly run company with compassion and heart at the forefront of everything they do and they just want to help expecting parents in any way they can.

    What would be your advice for any parent’s looking to bank their baby’s cord blood?

    Definitely have a look into this if it is something that is right for you both. Ask those questions that you need answering – the team are there to always help and put your mind at ease on anything. 

    Did the process work as you expected it to? 

    As we had a very quick birth with our first we let the Biovault family and phlebotomist know this in advance so that they could get to the hospital in time. As predicted we had another quick birth and the team were great, they had our notes and when we made the call in the evening she was there at the hospital ready to store the umbilical cord blood and tissue.

    Was it easy?

    It is super easy as you are given a step by step guide for you and your birthing partner to follow, so you know exactly what to do and who to call on the day, it couldn’t be simpler. 

    What does it mean to you that you’ve chosen to bank your baby’s cord blood?

    It means a lot. Its puts our minds at rest knowing that we have those precious stem cells stored away safely for many years to come.

    Since we’ve stored the cells we’ve been telling all our friends and family about it and everyone has been so surprised how brilliant it is and how it’s not widely known about. So we are happy to be spreading the word.

    Interested? Find out more

    If you’d like to know more about cord blood banking for your little one, you can download our brochure to find out more or you can chat with our lovely team who can explain the amazing benefits of saving the precious stem cells found in cord blood and cord tissue.

  3. Meet Kate Sneddon – World leader in stem cells

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    Since 2004, Biovault Family has collected, processed and released cord blood stem cells to treat leukaemia, neuroblastoma, sickle cell disease, cerebral palsy and more. Stem cell therapy could ultimately treat a huge range of conditions including Alzheimer’s, hearing loss, and even spinal cord injury. Biovault is the only UK cord blood bank working in partnership with NHS hospitals and it’s led by CEO Kate Sneddon.

    No wonder so many women put Kate Sneddon on a pedestal. As a personality she’s calm, peaceful and beautiful, widely revered in the business world she swims so confidently in. How did she get where she is? And what attributes have sealed her success as a senior female in a world where men still mostly rule the roost? 

    Back in 2009 Kate Sneddon, who lives in Cornwall with her husband Ken, two daughters and Cocker Spaniel puppy Piper, joined Biovault Family. In 2016, just seven years later, she accepted the role of Chief Executive Officer. A respected microbiologist who worked with GSK for more than a decade, these days Kate’s expertise in cord blood banking is widely recognised through a collection of awards as well as features in respected publications and contributions to high-profile research projects.

    As Chief Executive Officer at Biovault, Kate manages a group of companies including Biovault Technical and Biovault Family. She loves working for a small, agile company that makes fast decisions involving experts from across the organisation. Engaging with customers and people – in her spare time she’s a governor at a local school and Chair of the Plymouth Health Innovation Alliance Executive Group – is a vital skill, especially when faced with seemingly unrealistic aims, pinning down exactly what the customer wants then developing a suitable product and process.

    At the same time, it’s important to realise an individual can’t do everything. The internal and external delegation has helped Kate and the Biovault team do a better job, avoiding being drawn into the fine detail when there’s neither need nor benefit. It’s about working smarter rather than harder.  

    As you can imagine, the potential locked inside stem cells always generate strong media interest. Kate works hard to make sure the messages Biovault broadcasts are unbiased and ethical, giving an accurate picture of what these cells really can be used for. Despite the media furore, stem cell banking take-up remains comparatively low in the UK, a fact that drives her to keep on raising awareness. 

    Three things have supported Kate in her journey so far as a woman in the world of business, and bravery is one of them. In her words, “When I’m nervous I put my game face on and give it my best. It’s the most any of us can do.” Knowing the subject is another. When you have all the facts at your fingertips you’re confident and credible. And integrity is the third. “Commit to something, then do it. If you can’t or it isn’t relevant anymore, explain why not clearly and honestly.” 

    Today’s business landscape remains challenging for women and, in Kate’s opinion, the challenges faced by working women in future will probably be much the same. Developing a solid store of knowledge, expertise and confidence will, in her view, help women succeed, as will making sure future business models work fairly for all genders. Support from the government matters, and she places special emphasis on inclusive childcare support. There’s a lot more work needed before both men and women can work flexibly around family life. 

    Will all this bring more women like Kate to the boardroom? Hopefully. A better boardroom gender balance breaks down barriers, delivers more business opportunities, and inspires more people to aim for boardroom positions. But first, the world of work needs to break down the gender stereotypes we face from childhood. In a balanced world, there wouldn’t be any gender stereotypes. It wouldn’t even occur to children.

    Achieving the change is an enormous ask thanks to the many small but potent messages given out every day that unconsciously affect our children. Kate does her best to counteract these when she notices them in her own two daughters. As she says, “My children sometimes feel limited because of their gender. I do my best to positively reinforce the message that gender isn’t important, that we can achieve anything we want to.” 

    Kate is hugely optimistic about the next generation of working women, born with the internet and mobile technologies and naturally able to adopt and run with new tech. This will deliver dramatic business advantages around efficiency, marketing and customer communications, particularly via Artificial Intelligence and the findings that fall out of Big Data analysis. 

    Both Kate and her husband work for organisations that employ more women than men. It’s perfectly normal in healthcare. She’s delighted to see sectors traditionally dominated by men, for example, the tech industry, beginning to target girls at school in an effort to break down the old barriers, and she hopes this will continue and spread. 

    So what inspires Kate on to ever-greater things? It isn’t celebrities. It isn’t world leaders. It’s actually the “knowledge, ability and resilience of women who I routinely interact with who have skills and expertise I don’t.”  These include her colleagues at the Biovault, her children’s headteacher, and her fitness and yoga, instructors. They’re all women. And while they face the same day by day issues as the rest of us, they excel in their chosen field. 

    Kate’s advice is to follow your own star, do what you love, keep your options open, notice when you’re given the chance to broaden your experience and absorb as much knowledge as you can. As she concludes, “I’m seeing, as time passes, a steady improvement in the potential for women at every level in business. Being in a position to move the needle and help change things faster means such a lot to me.” 

    And for Kate, aside from her job, doing what she loves involves making the most of living in the South West, exploring beaches locally and further afield in the family camper van, and cold water swimming and paddle boarding throughout the year. 

    Like what you hear? Talk to our team today to find out more about stem cells – download our brochure for more information, call the team on 01752 753723 or book a free consultation now.

  4. Plymouth-based Biovault Family supports free baby safety workshops for all

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    Plymouth-based Biovault Family has announced a new partnership with The Baby Academy to provide free baby safety workshops.

    The sessions are available on line via My Baby Academy and provide parents with practical advice on topics such as allergic reactions in babies, baby rashes, teething, baby ear infections, and administering medicine correctly to your baby.

    Biovault Family is the UK’s largest private human tissue bank which is licensed to handle all human tissue types including cord blood and tissue.

    Jo Kingston, head of sales at Biovault Family, said: “We are all so passionate about making baby safety accessible to all, and wanted to support a programme that gave provision for this in a fun way. The Baby Academy is run by a brilliant team of experts who share their knowledge on all sorts of topics around baby safety and we’re proud to be supporting this initiative. The workshops are completely free of charge to all parents across the UK.”

    Based in Plymouth’s International Medical and Technology Park beside its partners at Derriford Teaching Hospital, Biovault Family has led the way in human tissue processing and storage since 2004. It provides both tissue and cellular processing and storage to the NHS and to strategic private partners around the world.  

    It also has an umbilical cord blood and tissue banking service, a process in which cord blood — a rich source of stem cells — is taken from the umbilical cord of a new born baby after delivery and stored for future use, either for personal use, or by a close member of the family.

    Jo explained: “A baby’s umbilical cord is possibly the richest available source of stem cells they will ever have. With cord blood banking, you can collect these powerful cells from the umbilical cord and tissue and store them for use in stem cell therapies.

    “It’s believed that cord blood stem cells are one of the cornerstones of regenerative medicine and these stem cells are currently being used in thousands of clinical trials for many incurable diseases, such as cerebral palsy, autism and diabetes

    In the future, they could be used to repair your baby’s damaged tissue, regenerate old organs or even replace body parts.”

    My Baby Academy provides a number of courses led by a team of health professionals and delivered online in real-time on an interactive platform. You can book your free place. You can find out more about cord blood banking.

  5. Our Biovault Family

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    Nothing is more important than your baby’s health. That’s why more and more people are signing up with Biovault Family to protect their baby’s precious umbilical cord blood.

    Can you imagine how powerless you feel when your child or another family member is ill or injured, but you can’t help? Now imagine you can help, because you’ve saved and stored precious cord blood from when you gave birth.

    We work with an amazing team and some more amazing mums with whom we build a very special bond. You may have heard of some of them…

    Louise Roe – Fashion stylist, author and presenter

    Louise Roe banked her baby’s stem cells with Biovault Family this year (2021).

    She says: “My family and I decided to bank our newborn daughter’s stem cells using Biovault, after having a long chat with them over the phone. They’re the only place in the UK that has their own storage facility and an insurance policy. That means should anything happen to the company, our baby’s cells will still be looked after for 50 years.

    “The diseases this can help treat and cure are very wide-spanning, and the list is growing. I do feel a huge sense of security knowing we have invested in our baby’s health and future.”

    Ricky Martin – Winner of The Apprentice, 2012

    Ricky Martin and his wife Gemma used Biovault Family for a second time last year (2020) following the birth of their baby daughter.

    Comments Ricky: “My family and I decided to bank our newborn daughter’s stem cells using Biovault, after having a long chat with them over the phone. They’re the only place in the UK that offers Escrow protection, an insurance policy that means should anything happen to the company, our baby’s cells will still be looked after for 50 years. The diseases this can help treat and cure are very wide-spanning, and the list is growing. I do feel a huge sense of security knowing we have invested in our baby’s health and future.”

    Our Biovault Family keeps growing…

    We are also delighted to be working with Portia Jett and her husband the TV presenter Ore Oduba who are expecting their second child later this month.

    Model, entrepreneur and influencer Juste has also chosen Biovault Family to bank her second child’s stem cells later this month.

    We’ll bring you more news from our Biovault Family very soon.

    Want to become a part of our family? If you’re expecting, find out more about how we can help you to protect your child’s future, call our team or download our brochure today.

  6. Louise Roe on why she chose Biovault Family to bank her daughter’s umbilical cord blood

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    Louise Roe, a television presenter, model fashion, journalist and influencer, chose to bank her baby daughter Inès’ umbilical cord blood with Biovault Family in May, 2021.

    Louise is married to Mackenzie Hunkin and the couple have another daughter Honor who was born in 2018. We caught up with Louise to ask her about her experience banking her baby’s cord blood.

    My family and I decided to bank our newborn daughter’s stem cells using Biovault Family, after having a long chat with them over the phone. They’re the only place in the UK that has their own storage facility and an insurance policy that means should anything happen to the company, our baby’s cells will still be looked after for 50 years. The diseases this can help treat and cure are very wide-spanning and the list is growing. I do feel a huge sense of security knowing we have invested in our baby’s health and future.

    Louise Roe

    What was your experience like of umbilical cord blood banking with Biovault Family?

    Really slick and organised. From start to finish everything was explained in such detail, and my husband had his list of things to do one on the night I gave birth – so all went to plan like clockwork.

    How did you feel when your cord blood banking kit arrived? 

    Actually, we felt huge relief that we had invested in our daughter and her health in the biggest way possible.

    Did it all go smoothly with the phlebotomist?

    Absolutely – they know what they are doing! She asked for the midwife to take my blood because of the Covid restrictions and waited outside to pick everything up on time.

    The stem cells in cord blood can currently be used to treat more than 80 diseases. How important do you think it is to spread the word about the importance of cord blood banking?

    Cold blood cells have the ability to be life-changing and life-saving, with more and more discoveries being made each year. This was a very important thing for us to do as a family.

    What would you say to anyone who has never heard about stem cell banking?

    It’s worth listening to or reading more about what it can do in terms of your baby’s future health, but also for other family members, who can often be helped by the same cells too.

    What can we do to help more people become aware of the importance of banking cord blood?

    Well, I’ve talked about it at length on my social media, so that’s a start!

    What has your experience been like with Biovault Family?

    Excellent – they really do care! My first chat with Joanna on the team was really comprehensive, she explained everything in fantastic detail and walked me through the process.

    What would be your advice for any parents looking to bank their babys cord blood?

    Do as much research as you can. It’s not cheap, that’s for sure, but for us it was very much a priority and investment for the future.

    Did the process work as you expected it to? Was it easy?

    Maybe ask my husband – ha! He was the one who made the call en route to the hospital and yes, it all ran smoothly.

    Would you recommend this service?

    100%

    Is there anything else you wish to add?

    Thank you to all the lovely team!

    Are you expecting? Does this sound of interest? If so, talk to team today – download our brochure or call to schedule a meeting with a member of our fab team.

  7. ‘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.

    stem cell preservation

    BSc (Hons) Microbiology

    Chief Executive Officer | Biovault Family

    Biovault Family CEO, Kate Sneddon, joined Biovault in July 2009 and became Chief Executive Officer in 2016. As health industry professional her experience includes working as a microbiologist and leader at GSK for over 10 years. Her expertise in cord blood banking has been recognised in her awards, features in Parliamentary Review and Parents Guide to Cord Blood, as well as contributions to research with UCL and others.

  8. 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.

    stem cell preservation

    BSc (Hons) Microbiology

    Chief Executive Officer | Biovault Family

    Biovault Family CEO, Kate Sneddon, joined Biovault in July 2009 and became Chief Executive Officer in 2016. As health industry professional her experience includes working as a microbiologist and leader at GSK for over 10 years. Her expertise in cord blood banking has been recognised in her awards, features in Parliamentary Review and Parents Guide to Cord Blood, as well as contributions to research with UCL and others.