Friday, April 20, 2012

Bone Marrow Donation

About three years ago, Cathy registered to become a bone marrow donor. The application process is easy. As long as you are between the ages of 18 and 55 (Cathy, of course, is 25) and are in good health, you may be eligible to donate marrow in the United States and Puerto Rico. In order to sign up, a tissue sample is taken from your inner cheek by swabbing it gently. If your cells match someone in need, you will be contacted and asked to potentially participate in a donation. The donor with the closest match is selected to ensure the best possible success rate. On average, 1 out of every 540 potential donors is matched up with a patient.

Donated bone marrow is used to replenish the supply of bone marrow in patients for whom illness or radiation and chemo therapies have destroyed their own marrow. The stem cells in bone marrow (which are not the same stem cells in the highly fueled fetal cell debate) then create new marrow in the bones, and help the patient who received the donation create their own blood cells.

There are two ways the donation process can go, if you are selected as a match. The first is that the donor may be placed under general anesthesia and will have a syringe injected directly through the bone to remove some marrow through a hollow needle. The procedure can be a simple outpatient procedure, or may require a short hospital stay of 1-2 days, depending on circumstances and individual recovery times. This process does not require stitches.

The second way to donate bone marrow is to be administered certain drugs that release stem cells from bone marrow into the donor's blood circulation. An IV is then inserted into the donor's arm and later the stem cells are filtered out of the blood. This procedure is very similar to donating blood or platelets and, start to finish, is completed in a matter of hours.

In newborns, stem cells may be retrieved from the umbilical cord. If you are currently pregnant or know someone who is, look into cord blood donation or suggest they discuss cord blood donation with their physician or obstetrician. The amount of cells collected through umbilical cord blood could be enough to save the life of a child or a small adult.

Only half of the people who need a transplant will be able to get one. And until there is a cure for the diseases and the treatments that cause the degeneration of bone marrow, the only solution is more donors. Please, consider the value of donating your time and your marrow to those in need. To find out more about registering as a donor, volunteering, or contributing in other ways, please visit

Do you know of someone who has benefited from bone marrow donation, or someone on the waiting list? Are you registered as a donor, and have you ever been called to donate? We'd love to hear from you!


  1. My sister in law and I recently signed up during a drive in our hometown. While the actual marrow retrieval can be painful, I'm certain that the possibility of keeping someone alive is worth every single second of pain.

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