Saturday, April 5, 2014

Process of Bone Marrow Donation

So with all the talk and promotion of various bone marrow drives taking place this weekend, I realize that I never talked about the actual process of donating marrow! I haven't received any questions about it, but that could mean that:

     1) you already know about the process
     2) you didn't know, but researched it yourself, or
     3) you felt hesitant and maybe too shy to ask!

So in case you fall under #3, here's a brief overview. According to "Be the Match":

Adult donors may be asked to donate in one of two ways:

Peripheral blood cell (PBSC) donation involves removing a donor's blood through a needle in one arm. The blood is passed through a machine that separates out the cells used in transplants. The remaining blood is returned through the other arm.

Bone marrow donation is a surgical procedure in which liquid marrow is withdrawn from the back of the donor's pelvic bones using needles. Anesthesia is always used for this procedure, so donors feel no pain during marrow donation. Most donors feel some pain in their lower back for a few days afterwards.

I liken PBSC to getting dialysis. Be the Match uses this illustration:

PBSC is the most common method of donating marrow. It accounts for 70-75% of marrow donation today.

The less common form of bone marrow donation is through a surgical procedure under anesthesia.

Most donations happen locally. It's easier for them to have carriers deliver the bone marrow than to "ship" the donor somewhere. Donors never have to pay to donate, though this doesn't account for any lost time at work. However, according to Be the Match, many companies have donor leave policies and some state laws require employees to provide paid donor leave. The medical staff and/or bone marrow organization can also help advocate for paid time off by writing a letter to your employer.

A friend recently shared his story of donating stem cells just last summer to a patient in another country! After 12 years of being on the bone marrow registry, he said it felt like winning the lottery to get the call that he was a match!

He donated via PBSC and said the process involved several days. First getting injections to boost his body's production, then the actual donation process. (This was after he had physical exams/evaluation to make sure he was in good health, etc.) He said LifeSource was great in answering his and his wife's questions, taking the time to address their concerns. They followed up with him for the first 6 months to make sure he was okay! So be sure that they are equally concerned about the donor as they are about the recipient. They wouldn't put a donor at risk to save the life of a recipient - it just doesn't make sense.

I hope you are willing to consider joining the registry if you are within the age range and in good health! Please don't be shy about asking questions. Even if you are not in Chicago to attend a local drive, you can join the registry online by requesting a swab kit to be mailed to your home; just be sure to complete the kit and send it back!

And if you are unable to attend a drive or join online, we cherish the prayers and support that you have offered thus far and continue to offer. Each one of you plays a vital part on this journey. Thank you!

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