This past weekend I visited a student of mine just before she started a bone marrow transplant procedure at SickKids Hospital in Toronto. Her parents were delighted to let me know that they had found a perfect match for her. The donor even had the same blood type so unlike what often happens during these kinds of transplants where the blood type changes; hers will stay the same.
When I heard that this girl’s leukemia had come back and was going to need a transplant, I looked into the possibility of being a donor because our blood types are the same. I had been in the bone marrow donation registry for many years previously, as my mom had leukemia, too, and also needed a bone marrow transplant. As the maximum donor age is 35 and I’m 46, I wasn’t able to go on the donor list.
It turned out that they didn’t have a good match at the time for my mom so she wasn’t able to get an “allogeneic” transplant (one from a different person) but they were able to give her an “autologous” one, which is roughly when they take your own stem cells, treat them, and put them back in.
When my mom had leukemia eighteen years ago, there wasn’t the third option for transplant donors that now exists today: an “umbilical cord blood transplant.” I only heard about this when I went to see my student in Toronto, as I learned her donor came from umbilical cord blood. This was the first I had heard of this! A family who chose to donate their baby’s umbilical cord and placenta is saving this seven-year-old girl’s life!
So what is umbilical cord blood?
This is the blood that comes from a newborn baby’s umbilical cord and placenta. Inside these precious life-giving tissues for our babies are cells called stem cells. These cord blood stem cells can be used to treat inherited disorders like sickle cell anemia, immune deficiency diseases, some kinds of cancer like leukemia, and metabolic disorders. Researchers also use donated cord blood to learn more about other or new kinds of treatments for patients of the future.
How can we donate cord blood?
Donating our baby’s cord blood is free, safe, and painless for the birth mother and baby. The umbilical and placenta are collected after the baby is born and umbilical cut.
In Canada, the organization to reach out to in order to donate your baby’s cord stem cells is Canadian Blood Services. They have a Cord Blood Bank where voluntarily donated cord blood is collected from mothers around Canada at these hospitals:
If you are interested in donating, but are not near these centers, I encourage you to speak with your pediatrician about how the donation might still be able to happen. Perhaps more collection sites will be opening in the future.
In the US, there is a website called Parent’s Guide to Cord Blood - Foundation that has an interactive map of the hospital locations where cord blood can be collected.
What is the biggest barrier to donating?
Awareness! Can you help get the word out? I know there’s one family in particular in Manitoba whose toddler desperately needs a donor. The donor registry team is hoping more families with diverse ethnic backgrounds will donate.
The kids in our London, Ontario school have become like a family. In honour of their fellow student’s cancer treatment journey, the kids will be shaving their heads to raise money for the hospital where she is receiving the treatment. She is there right now and will continue to be there over Christmas where she’ll need to be in isolation and away from her sister, grandparents and other family members and friends. After the transplant is complete, she will continue to be in isolation for several months while her immune system ramps back up from being completely depleted.
When she does come back to school, hopefully in the spring, she’ll have no hair. Our students believe she’ll feel sad to be bald so we’re going to be bald with her. I told the students that I’d shave my head, too, if they raise over $10,000 for SickKids Foundation! We’re shaving our heads on Valentine’s Day, which the day the students picked – to show her how much we love her.
I’m already freaking out about having a shaved head but I feel that if my mom was able to be bald and grow her hair back several times over an eight year period and this young girl has to face coming back to school and being in public without hair, I can do this for them.
We’re so grateful to the family who donated their baby’s cord blood for our dear friend and hope you can help us pass this message along to other parents-to-be.
When my first child arrived, almost ten years ago, I had concerns back then about the effects of radiation emitted from cell phones, wireless devices, and Wi-Fi. I couldn’t find any definitive study results at the time on how radio frequency radiation (RFR) might be having an impact on my body or that of my baby’s, so to be safe, I may have went a bit overboard. I didn’t have Wi-Fi in the house, a cell phone, or anything beyond a lamp and clock plugged into our bedrooms.
I tried to keep that up as long as I could until a contractor finally looked at me and said, “I cannot run wires through your whole house to have wired internet everywhere. The only option for what you need is to have Wi-Fi.” It’s interesting how stressed I was about this. I must have been telling myself pretty scary stories about what RFRs were doing to me!
In order to stay reasonable and logical, I continued to examine the findings of RFR researchers and started to slowly introduce wireless mechanisms into our home. I also looked into how this could be done in a way to reduce the overall RFR emissions, particularly after finding this letter written by many scientists from around the world to the United Nations. The letter shared their concerns regarding the increased exposure by electric and wireless devices.
Now as a Head of School with students, devices, and Wi-Fi around all of us, I want to do what I can to keep our exposure and risk as low as possible.
Here are six suggestions to help reduce your RFR exposure:
According to the notification right on my phone, it is recommended I keep it 5 mm away from my body. Of course, it’s better to keep it even further away if you can. I never put my iPhone in my pocket and only carry it around in my purse. When I’m not on the go, I put it on a table away from me. Don’t put your phone near your baby or young child and show your older children how to keep it off their bodies.
I also use the speakerphone or headset ear buds when I need to make a call on my cell phone. I usually try to use my landline instead, whenever possible.
When I’m using my phone to read something, I don’t hold it in my hand. I set it down on a table or cushion and use one hand to touch the screen on the top. I ask my children and students to do the same.
Similarly, even though laptops have the word “lap” in them, don’t actually put them directly onto your lap. A cushion or portable lap table can help keep computers off of our bodies while using them without a table.
I leave my phone downstairs at night and my husband’s stays nearby, since his number is our emergency contact number. We keep his phone on a nightstand away from us while we're sleeping. This is certainly a recommendation that sleep educators and other parenting educators like myself strongly suggest for children and parents alike.
I learned that our mobile devices emit more RFRs when the charge gets low and also when you take it to an area with lots of walls that may have metal or concrete in them. The biggest spike in RFR emissions happens when we take our devices into an elevator (an isolated, small metal box).
Our devices have to work harder when their charge is low or it is difficult for it to connect to a tower, which means they emit more RFRs when doing that.
Our devices are constantly working to secure a signal. If we're moving, the device has to drop one tower and find the next. Again, this will cause the device to emit more RFR's.
We installed our home wireless router in the basement, so it works really well on the first floor where we really need it and hardly works on the second floor where the bedrooms are. This has a great side-benefit: we simply can’t use our devices in the bedroom. In our school, I’ve got the router as far away from the kids as it can get (while still holding a strong signal).
Cell phone radiation products can be applied to our phones, to reduce cell phone radiation. There are several products on the market, so picking the right one is important. Here are a few points to consider before you pick one up:
I came across a product called Lif3 Smartchip at an event I attended. The main reason I felt comfortable putting the Lif3 Smartchip on my phone (once it’s there, it’s there for good!) was that they posted the actual testing data on their website. I really like that the company had their products tested by three independent facilities.
Here's a picture of the Smartchip on the back of my iPhone 6 (bottom right hand corner):
I also like that the chip is thin and still makes it easy to put a hard case around my iPhone. After using it for a while, I haven’t noticed any difference in the signal strength. It was really easy to just stick it on the back of the phone. They actually give you a diagram so you know exactly where it needs to go. Lif3 Smartchips claim to and have the results to show they reduce cell phone radiation (when used correctly).
This picture shows how thin the Smartchip is on my phone - I can easily put that black case on top of it:
There are different chips designed for different phones so if you're looking at getting one, make sure to get the right one for your device.
I agree with all those scientists who I mentioned at the beginning of this post: it's critical to ask hard questions and learn what we can about the impact on all of the signals around us and the devices we have capturing those signals. For those in Canada, this document from our Minister of Health explains what is happening at the federal government level regarding the study of RFRs.
It's very important that we educate ourselves, form our own opinions, and demand more research on the effects of radio frequency radiation in our lives.
I used to have the mindset that I couldn’t “afford" the things I knew would be helpful to me. Things that would help me while raising my two small children and getting my new business off the ground. The word “mindset” has been important because it was my thinking that stopped me from getting the help I needed more than my financial situation.
If I thought carefully about how I budgeted our money, I could move funds from the things I didn’t really need to those that had a positive impact on me. For example, I felt it was more important to make self-care a priority rather than buy things for the house. I put things that I could do without into a “no-buy-zone.”
I’m reading a book right now by Brené Brown called Rising Strong and in it, she simplifies the concept of mindset and core beliefs with this question: “What are the stories I’m telling myself?” This is an incredibly powerful question to consider, particularly when it comes to doing things that will help us feel better as busy, tired parents.
I realized one of the stories I was telling myself was this: I don’t have enough money to do ____ or have ____ even though I knew those things would help me. Please know that when I say that, I’m not putting our family’s financial stability at risk to buy things. I have just reconsidered how I could use the resources I had to get what I needed the most: rest and time.
These were the things that helped me, hopefully one or all of my suggestions can help you too!
I’m not sure how much babysitters cost where you are, but they’re $10 per hour around here. I can honestly say I was spending too much time with my little ones (I wasn’t getting the time I needed to recharge myself because I didn’t want to pay for a babysitter). I discovered that mom-trading worked for me! A few moms and I now take turns having all the kids at once.
Since time and rest are my most precious commodities, I had to learn that it was important to tell myself that it was worth it to (responsibly) spend money on items that free up my time. Interestingly, one of those items was my vacuum. I used to have vacuums with bags, but I always forgot the bags and grumbled all the way to the store to buy them. I also found I was replacing my vacuum every few years, which was adding up!
I finally bought my first Dyson vacuum eight years ago and I haven't looked back. I’m a pretty thrifty person but I will occasionally buy things that I know are worth the money both in their longevity and usefulness. I still have that vacuum, which works well, and have since bought three more for work.
I use my vacuum as a broom, duster, and floor cleaner but it was getting a bit onerous to keep hauling that out of the basement every time my kids made a huge mess or to get into tall the corners of the car so I started looking at cord-free models to see what would suit me.
The Dyson V8 Absolute model is now available and I was sent one to try out. It's kind of like a vacuum hybrid because it can be used for hard-to-reach spots:
And the floors:
I'm able to reach from one side of my dining table over to the other side, under my sofa, and the two chairs in the living room (aka: the dust bunny/ food bit sinkholes!). It's very easy to clean all of these spots without having to move furniture. And while I was concerned that the battery in a cord-free vacuum wouldn’t last very long, I can actually do my whole main floor with one charge (and all my carpets with one more!). Another good thing is starting with a clean canister and seeing all the junk you’ve pulled out of your house. It's also very light (under 6 pounds!).
The first time I tried the V8, I tackled the dumping ground underneath our island over-hang. I actually stopped eating there because I didn't like to see all the bits on the floor and have them stick to my socks and tracked around the house. I was amazed the Dyson V8 completely cleaned that whole area (even the dust!).
This vacuum is certainly saving me time and honestly, I have fun using it (which is not something I usually say about cleaning!) It makes me laugh because I love waving it around and pulling a trigger to make it work. My kids think I’m ridiculous when I use it like a sword, but I’m fine with that!
To give myself some breathing room, I have an occasional house-cleaner. For years, I told myself that I couldn’t get a house-cleaner because of the cost. Every Saturday morning, I was juggling taking care of the kids while trying to clean the house at the same time. I really needed that time to just rest while the kids watched their cartoons and played.
My friend had the idea of getting a cleaner every once in a while or sharing with another family. I found a lady whose fee was reasonable and had her come in twice a month instead of every week and she uses all of my favourite cleaning products and tools. This was a huge sanity saver and well worth it!
Bedtime used to be my least favourite time of the day – I just didn’t have the energy to stay positive and patient. Most nights, both my husband and I were home for the kids' bedtime routine, so we did the whole routine together.
The story I was telling myself here was that I have to do bedtime every day so my kids would feel connected with me. My parenting educator brain was over-thinking what my children needed for positive developmental growth.
The thing is, they’ll feel just as connected and well if we take turns doing bedtime. My husband and I wrote down a schedule where each of us gets one or two nights a week completely free from dish and kid duty and it works so well. This is another task I can’t believe I had been doing all these years when I didn't have to!
No matter what your situation is, all parents can agree that we can always use a little more time and rest each day. Try out some or all of my suggestions above and use some creative thinking to figure out where you can cut some corners and give yourself a break.