|National Marrow Donor Program|
In talking with my mom, I learned that all it takes to register is a cheek swab, and if you are a match at some point, there are two different ways to extract blood stem cells. One involves removing the cells from the back of your hip, but the other is from your arm, much like donating blood except that it requires a few shots in the days prior.
Just a couple days ago, I ran across an article in the August issue of Marie Claire on bone marrow donation. "Made to Match" tells the story of Caitlin Emma, a college student who donated bone marrow to a child with leukemia. It walks through the whole process, acknowledging the many myths and giving the straight facts on what Caitlin went through to donate--and save a life.
|via Marie Claire|
Be the Match doesn't charge people to join the registry, but they still greatly need donations. While it's free for those who sign up, it still costs Be the Match $100 per person to do the necessary tests on the cheek swab samples. Donations of any size are welcome and much appreciated. Even just $5 or $10 can help add an extra person to the registry, and, as we've seen, when you're looking for a match, all you need is that ONE person.
I was very, very lucky to find my perfect 10 out of 10 donor, and many people don't get that lucky. Most of my ancestry is Western/Northern European, which is very well represented on the registry. (It has twice as many Europeans as Americans.) But, even with that well-represented ancestry, out of the 12 million people registered, I had 2 perfect matches. Two people out of 12 million, and that's with my good odds. Non-Europeans and people with mixed ancestry have a hell of a time finding matches. Two days before finding out I had relapsed, my friend Joerger and I volunteered at a bone marrow registry drive for a 7-year-old boy, Jonah Gomez, who has been unable to find a match. He's Hispanic, making the search more difficult, and his family lost their health insurance, putting added stress on the whole situation. You can read about his story here: http://blog.tonic.com/lets-
When it takes longer to find a match, people's diseases have time to worsen, their finances become more and more strained, and their treatments get increasingly desperate, trying to buy themselves just a bit more time. By joining the registry, you could end up being the one person to put an end to all of that and allow them to get their lives back.
To sign up, it's just a cheek swab and some paperwork [go to marrow.org to order a cheek swab kit]. Most people never get called to donate, but, if you do, there are two different methods of stem cell collection. They either take stem cells from the back of your hip (for this procedure, they put you under general anesthetic) or from your arm (very similar to donating blood, but you have to get a few shots in the days before). If you have any other questions, marrow.org has all kinds of information about signing up, as well as the donation process.
Update: Visit M's blog for more information on the upcoming drives in Johnson County, KS and her fundraising team.