How to Donate Bone Marrow


Authored by Stephanie A. Harper in Society 
Published on 08-03-2009

There are few sacrifices as worthy in this world as making the choice to do something that could save another person’s life. One such opportunity for this kind of act of love is to become a bone marrow donor. The easiest way to do this is to join the Be the Match bone marrow registry, to begin the process for donation.

But, what does it mean to be a bone marrow donor? First of all, let’s define what a bone marrow transplant is. In the most basic terms, a bone marrow transplant is the transfer of healthy blood-forming cells from a donor into a cancer patient. But, the key to success is for the two to be as close a match as possible. As many people as there are needing a donation and as hard as it is to find a perfect match, it’s not difficult to understand why the need for willing donors to a great one.

Before you make a decision, here are some things to keep in mind. There are two ways to donate bone marrow. Most common is a non-surgical procedure called a peripheral blood stem cell donation. This is a relatively simple outpatient procedure in which a process called apheresis is used to remove blood cells by filtering them through a machine before returning the blood to your body. Part of this procedure includes taking injections to draw the blood cells out of the bone marrow. These may cause mild discomfort and perhaps slight illness, but this usually only lasts a couple of days.

It’s important to note that only about five percent of a donor’s bone marrow is needed to save a life. This is a fairly small amount. While there can be some mild side effects such as tingling sensations, chills, and numbness, it is all easy to treat and goes away after donation. While there is certainly a little risk involved in any medical procedure, the fear of any sort of long term effect is minimal.

So, what exactly is involved in becoming a donor? Well, first, you must be between the ages of 18 and 60. Then, you must meet a certain set of health guidelines, which can be found on the Be the Match website. If you think you’re a candidate, all you need to do is fill out a registration, and provide either a cheek cell swab or blood sample to be used to match you up. They also ask you to consider giving a $100 for the cost of test materials.

So, take this opportunity into serious consideration, and deliberate with friends and family about making this choice. Remember that while you can always choose to change your mind, even if you do become a match, this decision could be life threatening to the patient involved. This is a fantastic way to save a life if you are ready and willing to make the commitment.


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