Long Lost Page 53

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THE CryoHope Center gleamed, like, well, the ideal blend of a cutting-edge medical facility and an upscale bank. The reception desk was high and made of dark wood. I sidled up to it, Esperanza by my side. I noticed that the receptionist, a corn-fed cutie, was not wearing a wedding band. I debated changing plans. A single woman. I could turn on the charm, and she would fall under my spell and answer all my questions. Esperanza knew what I was thinking and just gave me the look. I shrugged. The receptionist probably didn\'t know anything anyway.

’’My wife is expecting,’’ I said, nodding toward Esperanza. ’’We would like to see someone about storing our baby\'s umbilical cord blood.’’

The corn-fed receptionist gave me a practiced smile. She handed us a bunch of four-color brochures on thick-stock paper and ushered us into a room with plush seating. There were large, artistic photographs of children on the wall, and one of those diagrams of the human body that makes you think of ninth-grade biology class. We filled out a form on a CryoHope clipboard. They asked for my name. I was tempted to go with either I. P. Daily or Wink Martindale, but I stuck with Mark Kadison because he was a friend of mine and if they called, he\'d just laugh.

’’Well, hello!’’

A man stepped in wearing a white lab coat, tie, and the same dark-framed glasses actors use when they want to look smart. He shook both our hands and sat in the other plush chair.

’’So,’’ he said, ’’how far along are you?’’

I looked at Esperanza.

’’Three months,’’ she said with a frown.

’’Congratulations. Is this your first?’’

’’Yes.’’

’’Well, I\'m glad you\'re doing the mature thing by looking into storing your baby\'s umbilical cord blood.’’

’’Can you tell us the fee?’’ I asked.

’’One thousand dollars for processing and shipping. Then there are yearly storage fees. I know that may sound expensive, but this is a one-time opportunity. Cord blood contains stem cells that save lives. Simple as that. They can treat anemias and leukemias. They can fight infection and help with certain kinds of cancer. We are on the edge of research that may lead to treatments for heart disease, Parkinson\'s, diabetes. No, we can\'t cure them yet. But who knows what will happen in a few years\' time? Are you familiar with bone marrow transplants?’’

’’Somewhat,’’ I said.

’’Cord blood transplants work better and are, of course, safer no surgical procedure to harvest it. You need an eighty-three percent HLA match to work with bone marrow. You only need a sixty-seven percent match with cord blood. That\'s now right now. We are saving lives today with those stem cell transplants. Are you following me?’’

We both nodded.

’’Because here\'s the key fact: The only opportunity to store cord blood is right after your baby is born. That\'s it. You can\'t decide to do it when the child is three years old, or maybe, God forbid, when a sibling gets sick down the line.’’

’’So how does it work exactly?’’ I asked.

’’It is painless and easy. When you have your baby, the blood is collected from the umbilical cord. We separate out the stem cells and deep-freeze them.’’

’’Where are the stem cells kept?’’

He spread his arms. ’’Right here, in a safe, secure environment. We have guards and backup generators and a safe room. Like you\'d find in any bank. The option we work with mostly and what I would highly recommend for you is called family banking. In short, you store your baby\'s stem cells for your use. Your baby might need it. A sibling. Even one of you or maybe an uncle or aunt. Whatever.’’

’’How do you know the cord blood will be a match?’’

’’There are no guarantees. You should know that. But of course the odds are greatly improved you\'ll find a match. Plus well, it looks like you are a couple of mixed heritage. It\'s harder to find matches, so this issue may be particularly important for you. Oh, and let me point out that the stem cells we are talking about are from cord blood they have nothing to do with the controversies you\'ve read about involving embryonic stem cells.’’

’’You don\'t store embryos?’’

’’Oh, we do, but that\'s something totally separate from what you\'re interested in. That\'s for infertility issues and the like. No embryos are harmed in cord-blood stem cell research or storage. I just wanted to make that clear.’’

He had a wide smile.

’’Are you a doctor?’’ I asked.

The smile faltered just a wee bit. ’’No, but we have five on staff.’’

’’What kinds of doctors?’’

’’CryoHope has leaders in all the fields.’’ He handed me a brochure and pointed to the list of five doctors. ’’We have a geneticist who works with inherited diseases. We have a hematologist who works on the transplant side of things. We have an obstetrician-gynecologist who is a pioneer in the area of infertility. We have a pediatric oncologist who is doing research with stem cells to find cancer treatments for children.’’

’’So,’’ I said, ’’let me ask you a hypothetical.’’

He leaned forward.

’’I store my baby\'s cord blood. Years pass. Now I get sick with something. Maybe you don\'t have a cure yet, but I want to try something experimental. Could I use the cord blood?’’

’’It\'s yours, Mr. Kadison. You can do with it what you want.’’

I had no idea where to go with this. I looked at Esperanza. She offered up nothing.

’’May I talk to one of your doctors?’’ I asked.

’’Are there any questions I haven\'t been able to answer?’’

I tried to think of another avenue. ’’Do you have a client named Rick Collins?’’

’’I\'m sorry?’’

’’Rick Collins. He\'s a friend of mine, recommended you. I wanted to make sure he\'s a client.’’

’’That information would be confidential. I\'m sure you understand. If someone were to ask about you, I would say the same thing.’’

Nowhere.

’’Have you ever heard of a charity named Save the Angels?’’ I asked.

His face shut down.

’’Have you?’’

’’What is this?’’ he asked.

’’I just asked a question.’’

’’I explained to you the process,’’ he said, rising. ’’I suggest you read the literature. We hope that you choose CryoHope. Best of luck to you both.’’

OUT on the curb I said, ’’The bum\'s rush.’’

’’Yep.’’

’’Win had a theory early on that maybe the blood they found at the murder scene was cord blood.’’


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