Be a Hero:
How Do I Become A Potential Bone Marrow Donor?
Can the first step to save someone’s life really be as easy as swabbing your cheek with four cotton swabs? Yes, yes, yes, and yes!!!! Healthy people between the ages of 18 and 44 who swab their cheeks and fill out a form become members of the Be The Match Registry, where thousands of people go to find a life-saving match every year. Since its inception in 1987, Be The Match has facilitated over 43,000 transplants to give people of all ages a second chance at life.
Although patients need donors who are a close genetic match, a surprising 70 percent of patients do not find a match within their immediate families, so they must rely on “family they haven’t met yet” to help them. Even with a registry that contains 9 million people, only four out of ten receive the transplant they need. Lack of a matching donor factors into this statistic. Each person who joins the registry provides hope to these patients. Donor Jonthan Nazeer asks, “Given the opportunity to save a life, would you”? If you answered yes, please join the registry and encourage friends, family, and co-workers to do the same. Donors with diverse racial or ethnic backgrounds are especially needed.
What Happens If I’m A Match for A Patient?
Once a donor is identified, the patient undergoes chemotherapy and sometimes radiation to destroy their diseased marrow. The donor’s healthy blood-forming cells are then given directly into the patient’s bloodstream, from where they repopulate bone marrow and can begin to function and multiply. Donation occurs in one of two ways.
Information for Donors
The most common form of donation is PBSC (peripheral blood stem cells). PBSC donation is a nonsurgical procedure that takes place at a blood center or outpatient hospital unit. For 5 days leading up to donation, the donor will be given injections of a drug called filgrastim to increase the number of blood-forming cells in the bloodstream. The blood is then removed through a needle in one arm and passed through a machine that separates out the blood-forming cells. The remaining blood is returned to the donor through the other arm. The blood-forming cells are back to their normal levels within 4 to 6 weeks. To learn more, watch the PBSC donation video.
PBSC donors can expect to experience a headache, or bone or muscle aches for several days before collection, a side effect of the filgrastim injections. These effects disappear shortly after collection. Most PBSC donors report that they feel completely recovered within 2 weeks of donation.
Marrow donation is a surgical outpatient procedure that takes place at a hospital. You will receive anesthesia and feel no pain during the donation. Doctors use a needle to withdraw liquid marrow from the back of your pelvic bone. The marrow replaces itself completely within 4 to 6 weeks. To learn more, watch the marrow donation video.
Marrow donors can expect to feel some soreness in their lower back for a few days or longer following the donation. Most marrow donors report that they feel completely recovered within 3 weeks of donation.
In 70% of the cases, the easier of the two, PBSC donation, is chosen by the patient’s doctor. Because Manasvi did not find a match, she received her own stem cells that she donated to herself. Although an autologous transplant is less safe and effective than a transplant with a healthy donor, Manasvi is grateful that she had this opportunity since many patients who do not find a match lack this option. About this process, Manasvi says “I can safely say that the PBSC donation was the easiest part of my treatment. As a recipient, I went through so much more pain and, of course, all the side effects of high-dose chemo. The pain experienced in donating PBSC really pales in comparison.”