Interview with the world’s first patient, who had a transplant of umbilical cord blood

Matt Farrow_2

In 2013, 25 years passed after the world’s first transplantation of cord blood stem cells, performed by Professor Eliane Gluckman at St. Louis clinic in Paris (France) to a 5-year-old American boy with Fanconi anemia. Then, back in 1988, Professor Gluckman by this very brave operation proved that cord blood is comparable to bone marrow as a source of stem cells. In 2015, the number of transplants of umbilical cord blood worldwide overexceeded 35,000.

Foundation Parents’ Guide to Cord Blood (, 27 years later, published an interview with the world’s first patient, who had a transplant of umbilical cord blood – Matthew Farrow, fragments of which we offer your attention.

On photo, Matthew Farrow, the same 5-year-old boy with Fanconi anemia, who on October 6, 1988 was carried out the world’s first transplant of umbilical cord blood. Now Matthew is 32, he is married and a father.

Matt Farrow


Matthew Farrow devoted his life to the work in a bank of umbilical cord blood CORD:USE, which is engaged in both public and private storage. The Bank is managed by some of the leading doctors in the field of cord blood transplantation. In  CORD:USE Matthew deals with logistical and technical support for the warehouse, sets kits for the collection of umbilical cord blood both for the public bank and the bank of a family type. Matthew Farrow is also very actively engaged in social and educational activities aimed at raising awareness of future parents and health care providers about the value of cord blood, what proves by the example of his own life.

Matt, why do you do public outreach?

My goal is to share my story to help increase awareness and understanding of cord blood. There are so many people who don’t really know the importance of it.

From your own experiences talking to patients and their families, what do you think are the key things that they should know about cord blood transplants?

I mostly talk to families with Fanconi Anemia (FA) because that is my diagnosis. My little sister’s cord blood cured me from bone marrow failure caused by FA and that allowed me to grow up and become an adult. I encourage families of young kids who have gone through transplants, and show them that patients can grow up, have a family, and live a normal life.

As a spokesperson for cord blood awareness, you have traveled to medical conferences, testified to politicians, and appeared at public events like NASCAR races. What was the most exciting experience you have had as a spokesperson?

My most exciting experience would have to be meeting kids that have had a cord blood transplant.  Children inspire me to keep going and the people that I meet touch my heart.

Do you have any advice for transplant survivors trying to find a “new normal”?

 I’ve been very blessed that I havn’t had long-term side effects from my cord blood transplant. Since I was so young when I had my transplant, living with that is all I ever knew. I was just a kid that wanted to play and get dirty and be like the other kids. After my transplant it took me a while to learn that it was OK to get dirty. So my advice would have to be that it is going to take time to adjust and to not dwell on the bad parts of the process. It is easy to ask “Oh, why me?” and I am sad that many of my friends have passed away. It took me a much longer time to realize that I had to focus on the future and really start living. God kept me here for a reason.

Many people still are not very aware or informed about cord blood stem cells and banking options. What do you think the cord blood community should do about this?

I think there should be a stronger message educating the public on the truth about cord blood and cord blood stem cells. I feel there is too much negative energy in the media about embryonic stem cells and the public is not hearing enough about cord blood stem cells. This leaves an impression in people’s minds that stem cells are a negative thing. I was in a fast food restaurant one day and I overheard one customer tell another that cord blood banking is all a scam, so I went over and introduced myself. We need to get out more positive messages about cord blood stem cells.

I wish we had a TV presence in the cord blood field. We should have public service commercials about cord blood banking.

I think a lot of doctors don’t explain cord blood options to expectant parents as well as they could, so better education for doctors would be helpful.

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