Every year more than 140,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with life-threatening blood diseases, such as leukemia, among them are many children and young adults. Since only approximately 30 percent of patients find a match in their family, most are dependent on finding an unrelated donor. Adding more diverse donors will help increase the likelihood that all patients will find a life saving match.
Why am I urging you all to become donors? This past October, my sister was diagnosed with Leukemia. So far, she has not required any bone marrow donations, but if she did and my brother and I weren’t able to be matches, I would hope she would be able to find a donor elsewhere. That is why I became a bone marrow donor, because I feel its good karma and the right thing to do.
Recently my sister sent me information about “Team Haupt” on Facebook. They too are looking for donors for Jonathan Haupt, who is battling leukemia. My sister urged me to check out their site as well as The DKMS Site, which opened my eyes to how easy the process of becoming a bone marrow donor is.
How easy it you ask? Well, all you have to do is go to http://www.dkmsamericas.org and fill out a form there. They will send you a kit in the mail. You will then swab the cheeks in your mouth and put them in an envelope and mail it back. They ask for a donation, but you are NOT required to pay anything. They will then test your swabs and see if you match anyone. If you don’t match anyone right away, you may match someone in the future. Your information will stay in the system until either you asked to be removed from the list or until your 61st birthday.
If they find you a match, you will be notified via phone call, email, or however else they can get a hold of you.
There are two ways that they can collect the blood stem cells from you.
1) Bone Marrow Donation is a surgical procedure. You will receive local or general anesthesia so you experience no pain. Doctors use special, hollow needles to withdraw liquid marrow – containing blood stem cells – from the back of your pelvic bones.
Side effects and recovery. You can expect to feel discomfort in your lower back. Side effects from anesthesia most commonly are nausea, sore throat and light headedness. Most donors feel recovered within two weeks and your marrow is completely replaced within four to six weeks.
2) Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Donation takes place at an apherisis center. To increase the number of white blood cells, donors receive daily injections of a synthetic protein called filgrastim for 4 days before the collection. On the 5th day – the day of the collection – you receive your last injection. Then, your blood is removed with a sterile needle from one arm and passed through a machine that separates out the blood stem cells. Your remaining blood is returned through your other arm.
Side effects and recovery. You may experience headache, bone or muscle aches several days before the collection. This is a side effect of the filgrastim injections that you received. The achiness goes away shortly after the collection.
So, how do you know if you are eligible to donate bone marrow? Here are their guidelines.
- Between the ages of 18 and 55 and in good general health
- Not be severely under or over weight
- Not be HIV positive
- Not have severe heart disease
- Not have a personal history of cancer*
- Not have severe asthma (daily inhalers are acceptable)
- Not have diabetes requiring insulin
- Not have hepatitis
- Not have epilepsy
- Not have chronic or severe back problems or surgery.
- Not have autoimmune disorders such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis or multiple sclerosis
As you can see the process is very easy and remotely painless. The slight pain and discomfort you may feel is nothing compared to the pain those who are receiving your marrow may have been going through or continue to go through. Plus, you will be helping to save a life. What better feeling is there?
So become a donor yourself and urge your friends, family, co-workers, Myspace/Facebook contacts, favorite bartender, etc, to become a donor as well. Do it for someone you know. Do it for my sister Dawn, Jonathan Haupt, and the millions who battle Leukemia and other life threatening blood diseases. Do it to give someone a chance to continue to live their life and make more memories. Memories that will be cherished by their loved ones forever all because you took the time out of your life to donate bone marrow.
I recieved many of the stats and information from www.dkmsamericas.org and www.teamhaupt.org
Go to either site to get more information. You can also find Team Haupt on Facebook.
Thanks for taking the time to read this article. Together we can save a life!
You can leave comments after this article or send your questions and comments to me at [email protected] (Ryan Madland)