Bone Marrow Information
Every year, thousands are diagnosed with leukemia and other blood-related diseases. In the past, such a diagnosis was often lethal. Chemotherapy and radiation treatments could often induce a remission, but rarely offer a cure. Today, transplantation of healthy stem cells and new Bone Marrow donated by related and unrelated volunteers, offers hope to many patients suffering from these deadly diseases. Advances in transplantation have made this procedure a reality for thousands who are alive today because a stranger gave them a new LIFE.
It is indeed a tragedy that so many patients who could benefit from this life-saving procedure can not be treated. In order to have a transplant, there must be a donor: a volunteer who shares a tissue type similar to the patient. For many, finding a match is not so easy.
It may be as little as a few months, or as much as five or even ten years after being tested before you receive that special call to help save a life. In fact, you may never be called as a suitably matched donor for a patient! The only way you will ever now if you can help save a life is by taking the first step to be tested! Perhaps one day you might be given the opportunity.
To fill the Biggest Mitzvah of All, Saving a Life, please get registered.
Registration Steps, easy as 1-2-3
1. Initial Recruitment
Prospective donors must be between the ages of 18-60 and in general good health. Volunteers can participate at a community recruitment drive or order a kit online on this website! Testing is simple, and involves a swab from the inside of the cheeks
to collect a sample of DNA. The donor's tissue type is then entered into the Registry and made available to patients worldwide
in need of transplants!
2. Confirmatory Typing
If identified as a match, the next step involves collecting a blood sample which will be evaluated by the patient's transplant
center. This will also include testing for Infectious Disease Markers. Donors will be contacted by telephone or by mail. It is
important to notify the Registry of changes of address, since it could be years before a donor is ever identified as
a match (if ever).
If results from the confirmatory typing are a match and Infectious Disease Markers are normal, the transplant center may request a physical exam and health history. Before this takes place, an Information Session is scheduled between the donor and a registry representative. Donor education is our highest priority, to ensure that volunteers understand the entire process and the risks / benefits associated with donation. A consent form is reviewed with the donor at this time as well. Donors are given a book on the process, along with a compact disc containing a video.
If the donor agrees to participate, the physical exam is scheduled. This includes a chest x-ray, EKG, complete blood count, chemistry and other lab tests. If cleared, the donor is scheduled for bone marrow harvest or blood stem cell donation.
Bone Marrow Donation Options
Bone Marrow: Marrow is found in the hollow cavities of the body's large bones. Donation involves withdrawing 2-3 percent of the donor's total marrow from the iliac crest of the hip, posterior aspect of the donor's pelvic bone. There is no cutting or stitching. The procedure involves a needle aspiration, performed using an anesthetic. Typically, the donor enters a medical center’s outpatient facility in the morning and goes home in the afternoon!
Blood Stem Cells: It is possible to collect stem cells from the peripheral blood rather than the bone marrow. In order to collect a sufficient quantity of stem cells, injections of a medication called filgrastim must be administered. This mobilizes stem cells to travel from the bone marrow into the circulating blood. The stem cells are collected through a procedure called apheresis, which is similar to the process used in platelet donation. A cell separating machine filters out the stem cells, which can them be infused in the recipient.
MARROW VS. BLOOD STEM CELLS
Please bear in mind that it is the transplant physicians who choose the stem cell source, not the registry. Donors requested for blood stem cell collection will be counseled on the entire process at an information session. With proper guidance, the ultimate decision to donate is up to the donor. If a donor declines to donate blood stem cells, he or she may also be offered the opportunity to donate bone marrow.
Donating stem cells is a significant commitment, and we want all volunteers to be well educated. If identified as a match, each donor is counseled on the risks and benefits of donation at an information session, and receives a comprehensive physical exam. The donor bears no costs associated with the procedure or associated tests.
Stem cell donation is a voluntary process. Prospective donors are never under pressure to register. In fact, we ask that you take some time to consider your commitment in order to avoid giving false hope to patients in need. For the patient, there is no turning back once the pre-transplant treatment begins. Without the donors healthy stem cells, the patient would die. Thus, it is crucial that the donor be committed to participate once the intent to donate is given.
Several days prior to the donor's stem cell collection, the patient begins pre-transplant conditioning usually consisting of radiation and chemotherapy. This process eradicates the patients diseased immune system, and the patient is kept in protective isolation to prevent infection. The donor's stem cells are given intravenously to the recipient. The stem cells migrate through the circulatory system to the hollow cavities of the bones. If all goes well, the stem cells engraft within a few weeks and begin to manufacture healthy blood cells, giving the patient a second chance - the gift of life! If both donor and recipient agree (this must be a mutual agreement), they may be able to meet one year after the transplant, although this is depends upon laws in foreign countries.
The recuperation process is lengthy, but the patient has been given a second chance at a full life thanks to the kindness of a stranger - and that someone may be YOU!
THE NEXT STEP
Gift of Life considers donor education a high priority. Many donors agree to be tested without considering their commitment carefully. In order to avoid giving false hopes to a patient needing a stem cell transplant, we ask that you give this decision your complete attention. Then, if you wish to join Gift of Life, you can register online or attend a community recruitment drive.