Becoming a bone marrow donor, or any type of donor, is one of the most generous and selfless acts a human being can do for another. Although some people cringe at the thought of giving organs others understand that without donors thousands of people will die needlessly every year.
The National Marrow Donor Program was started to register people who are willing to become donors and hopefully match them with someone in dire need. It is estimated that over 35,000 children and adults are diagnosed each year with diseases which can be cured with the donation of bone marrow or with a cell transplant.
Although many patients have a relative who is a close enough match to be the donor a large percentage of the needy have no one in their family with a close enough match. For these patients the only hope is the registry at The National Marrow Donor Program.
Anyone, regardless of race, ethnicity or gender, so long as they are between 18 and 60, can be marrow donors. Of course, if the donor has health issues himself he may not be accepted. A small amount of blood is drawn from potential donors for blood typing. There is a cost for the tissue sampling which can range from $60 to $95 per person but the cost is sometimes covered by community members or other organizations. If you would like to be a donor but can’t afford the cost talk to someone at the National Marrow Donor Program about possible funding for the cost.
If you are chosen as a donor you are not obligated. Donors can change their minds at any time before the surgery is performed but may be risking the needy patient’s health if backing out at the last minute. Think long and hard about becoming a donor before signing on with the program. If you’ve decided to go through with the donation a complete physical will be performed to make sure you are in good health before proceeding.
Not everyone is accepted as a donor. Those with extreme asthma, former back injury with continuous pain, those who are at risk for AIDS, and people with high blood pressure are generally turned away from the program. Someone with an irregular heartbeat is generally accepted as a donor, people with controlled epilepsy, along with someone who has diabetes which is controlled by diet. Those who have previously donated an organ are exempt from the program, as well as those with Hepatitis B.
For 5 days before the surgery donors are given daily injections of a drug called filgrastim which increases the amount of blood-forming cells in the body’s bloodstream. During the actual surgical procedure the donor will be anesthetized and special needles will be used to withdraw the marrow from the back of the pelvic bones.
Upon coming out of the surgery the donor can expect to have some pain in the lower back. Most donors are back up to normal in a few days and their marrow has reproduced itself within 4 to 6 weeks. Some donors complain of headaches or muscle aches for a few days after the procedure. After having the procedure a yearly exam is done for several years as follow-up.
Travel is sometimes involved when becoming a donor. Since it’s impossible to transport the patient to the donor the reverse must take place. Costs for traveling, motel, food, medication and other expenses connected to the procedure are normally covered by the patient’s insurance.
Once you join the registry your name will be listed as a potential donor until your 61st birthday or until you officially ask to be removed. Stay in touch with the facility and inform them of address changes or change in health status. Bone marrow donations have saved thousands of lives and you can be a part of this exciting medical technology. Talk to others in the family before making a final decision.