Joining the registry
If you are between the ages of 18 and 44, in good health, and willing to donate to any patient in need, please join the registry!
You can check the complete medical guidelines here to make sure you qualify.
Doctors choose donors who are between the ages of 18 and 44 in almost every case. If you are between the ages of 45 and 60, you can join with a $100 tax-deductible donation to Be the Match. However, your donation may be better served as a general contribution to help offset the costs of adding more people 18 - 44 to the registry, since they are more likely to be chosen as a donor. You can read more at the Be the Match website.
How to join
To join, a sample of your cheek cells is collected with a cotton swab. It's completely painless and takes less than 5 minutes. You will also need to fill out some paperwork. Then, your cells are typed and entered in the registry, so that doctors can search for matches for their patients in need of a marrow donor.
Doctors search for potential donors that match the patient's HLA markers - blood type is not a factor in determining who is a match.
What if you're a match?
On average, one out of every 540 members of the registry will go on to donate stem cells or marrow.
If you are ever a match for a patient in need, you'll be contacted for further testing. It's important that you respond quickly! If the further testing determines that you're the best match for the patient, you'll have a physical exam and information session.
There are two methods of donation: peripheral blood stem cells (PBSC) and bone marrow. The patient's doctor will request the method that is best for the patient.
PSCB donation occurs about 76% of the time. It's a nonsurgical, outpatient procedure. Your blood is removed from one arm, passed through a machine to separate out the blood-forming cells, and returned through your other arm.
Marrow donation occurs about 24% of the time. You will receive anesthesia and feel no pain during the procedure. Doctors use a needle to withdraw liquid marrow from the bone.
Most donors are able to return to work or school within 1 to 7 days after donation. While recovery times vary, most donors report that they feel completely recovered within 2 - 3 weeks of donation.
What donors say
Watch Alice Senko talk about her experience donating bone marrow in the video below.
Here is a note from Thirupathi, who donated his PBSC:
My name is Thirupathi. 2 Years back I got a call from National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) and the lady on phone said that I became a match for a 19 year old guy who is suffering from Acute Leukemia and she said I can save his life if I am ready to donate my bone marrow. As everybody does, I was also hesitated to go ahead because of the concerns we (me, my friends, family) had about the donation process and any side effects after the donation. However, the only thought that made me go ahead and donate was: If I am a match for someone out of so many millions of people in National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) Registry (all people data who register for bone marrow donation goes to a central Database maintained by NMDP) and can save his/her life, I definitely have something to do with this person. I followed it as an instruction/order from god and said YES to the lady who called me from NMDP to find out if I am ready to donate (It took sometime for me to say YES though). I donated my bone marrow around two years back and I am healthy and I never had any health complications. I am a live example to say that you can simply go ahead and donate your marrow, if become a match. I am in contact with the person whom I donated my marrow and he is healthy and back to his normal life.
Here are the few words from my bone marrow recipient:
"First of all, thank you so much for what you did. Words can't describe how much it means to me. I am alive and well because of YOU!"
There are two methods of doantion. One is collecting bone marrow from the donor's hip bone which involves anesthesia and the second one is Peripheral Blood Stem Cells (PBSC) process which I did. The second process is easy and most of the donors are suggested to do this by the doctors.
The steps I underwent for the whole process, starting from my registration with NMDP to donation.
1. I participated in marrow drive and gave my saliva and got a call from NMDP (National Marrow Donor Program) after 9 months that I am a possible match and I was asked to give my blood samples for test.
2. I gave my blood samples in a nearby hospital referred by NMDP (all hospital expenses were paid by NMDP or patients insurance company).
3. After a week or so I got a call from NMDP again saying that they got 12 people as potential donors and I was one of them.
4. NMDP asked me to give blood samples one more time to do some more further testing and I did so.
5. After a month, I got a call from NMDP saying that I am the best possible match for the patient and asked me if I am ready to donate. The representative from NMDP has explained me the whole donation process and even she gave couple of references (already donated people) to talk to, to know the process.
6. I accepted to donate and NMDP sent me some documents to sign to confirm my acceptance. I signed them and sent back.
7. After receiving the signed documents from me, NMDP scheduled an appointment for me at New York Presbyterian Hospital to start the PBSC donation process.
8. For 5 days leading up to donation, I was given injections of a drug called filgrastim to increase the number of blood-forming cells in my bloodstream. For the first day, I was given the injection at New York Presbyterian Hospital and for the next three days, a nurse sent by NMDP came to my office to give the injections. On the day of donation the last injection was given at the hospital.
9. As my body was carrying millions of stem cells (more than required by my body), I had some pains which are normal during this process and I was free from all the pains after 2 or 3 days of the donation.
10. Finally, I donated my marrow on the fifth day and after 2 or 3 months later I got call from NMDP saying that the patient survived and he is recovering.
11. The PBSC donation process is explained here... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2bTCSslVmKs Please don't be scared about this process. It is not complicated and risky.. I am a live example for this.
12. After 9 months time I got a beautiful greeting card from the patient's parents thanking me for what he did and told that their son was ready to go back to college (a 19 year old guy).
The process may look little complicated but it is not... and I am healthy and happy after two years of marrow donation. Please don't be scared to donate the marrow by thinking about the donation process and the consequences you are concerned about.
Save a life ......
Learn more about the process of donation at the Be The Match website here.
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