Did you know that thousands of people are currently waiting for a bone marrow transplant to save their lives? And did you know that only about 50% will ever find that match?
You can help save one of these lives by hosting a donor drive at your nursing home in 2018. If that’s not possible, please consider adding your own name to the marrow donor registry. Here’s what you need to know:
Who can donate marrow?
The ideal age is 18-44 as this assures the greatest chance of transplant success. Many people believe that the criteria for donating marrow are the same as for donating blood, but this isn’t true. Even if you’ve been declined as a blood donor in the past, you may still be able to donate marrow. You do need to be in good health in order to donate marrow, so there are medical conditions that may restrict you from donating.
How will I know if I’m a match for someone?
Getting on the donor registry involves a simple mouth swab that you can do at home or at a donor drive. If you’re a match, you’ll be notified and you may be asked to complete additional testing. You’ll then be invited to attend an information session to learn more about the procedure and potential risks. You can change your mind at any time.
Who needs my marrow?
Many diseases can be treated with a marrow transplant. These include leukemia, lymphoma, sickle cell anemia, and some inherited metabolic disorders.
People of all ages, genders, and ethnicities are on the waiting list. Many people think a family member is usually available to donate marrow, but in reality, 70% of people receive a transplant from a stranger.
A donor is told the age, gender, and diagnosis of their recipient. Contact between the donor and recipient may be possible after a successful transplant based on the policies of the individual transplant center.
What is it like to donate marrow?
There are two main procedures used to obtain marrow, and the recipient’s physician decides which is best for the patient. The most common type is a peripheral blood stem cell donation. This is similar to donating plasma and is done in an outpatient clinic.
Prior to the procedure, the donor receives 5 daily injections of a medication to increase the quantity of special cells in the bloodstream. The actual procedure takes several hours and is done using an apheresis machine. The donor’s blood is removed using a needle in one arm, and as the machine separates out the needed cells, the blood is returned through the donor’s other arm.
The less common procedure involves removing bone marrow from the back of the pelvic bone using a special needle. This is done in the hospital under general or regional anesthesia. The donor often returns home the same day or sometimes is required to stay overnight. People generally return to normal activities within a few days.
What are the risks of being a marrow donor?
As with any medical procedure, there are risks. Most donors experience mild, temporary side effects such as soreness, fatigue, bruising, or nausea. A small percentage of donors experience more serious adverse reactions. Risks are explained in detail before you consent to the transplant.
A donor never has to pay to donate marrow. Medical costs are paid by the recipient’s medical insurance or by the National Marrow Donor Program. Other costs such as travel are also covered. The most common expense for a donor is unpaid time off from work.
Are you ready to set up a donor drive at your nursing home? Simply fill out this form, and a marrow donation expert will provide you with all the information you need to organize a successful drive.
Will you consider adding your own name to the marrow donor registry? My daughter, Sarah, is a physical therapy student at the University of Minnesota, and she’s also a “Be The Match” volunteer. When Sarah heard that only 1 out of every 430 people who sign up are actually matched with a recipient and go on to donate marrow, she made it her goal to save 1 life by recruiting 430 people for the registry.
If you go through my daughter’s link, “Be The Match” will send a collection swab kit right to your home. I’ll post when Sarah reaches her goal, and I’ll let you know when she (with your help) saves a life. Thank you, and please share on social media!