Thursday, March 13, 2014

Be The Match! - Become a Bone Marrow Donor Today

A good friend of mine, Kristi, recently sent out a Facebook request for people to become potential bone marrow donors through a program called Be The Match. Kristi has an eleven year old daughter, Mia, who was diagnosed shortly after birth with a rare condition called Diamond-Blackfan Anemia or DBA. My understanding of this chronic condition is that Mia's body doesn't produce red blood cells, and she relies on regular blood transfusions to keep her alive. To date, Mia has had over 100 blood transfusions!

At some point in her life, Mia might require a bone marrow transplant as part of her treatment. Without a sibling match, she would need a stranger, somewhere, to be her perfect match and offer to donate their marrow. If you knew this amazing, brave, positive, spunky little girl, and it turned out you were her match, you wouldn't hesitate for a second. When I saw the post from Kristi, I felt compelled to push aside my fears and see what I needed to do to get on the registry.

Apparently I'm a perfect match for a Soy Caramel Macchiato
The initial stage is pretty easy! All I had to do was fill out some personal information and provide 4 cheek swabs. Due to gossiping, picture taking and obsessive form completing, this took me 20 minutes, which was about 15 minutes longer than it needed to. I did have to commit to a few things. Namely, that I would keep my contact information up to date and promptly return any correspondence I received.

Bone marrow transplants are used to treat various blood cancers including Leukemia and DBA.
I was shocked to discover that signing up puts you on the list of potential donors until you are 61 years old! Apparently Kristi herself has been on the list for years. I did some digging around on the website and apparently only 1 in 500 end up donating after all testing is said and done. I think it would be an amazing experience to be part of, even if you never knew who you were donating for (hospitals have varying policies regarding allowed contact between donor and recipient).

If selected for further screening, any transportation and medical costs for the donor are taken care of by the Be The Match organization. I was initially hesitant because I read online that 1.5% of donors encounter serious complications. If that means death, then as a new mother I have to take pause. I believe, however, that the main risk is infection at the site of surgery. Further information regarding procedure and risk is provided at each stage, and donors are free to change their minds at any time. I cannot imagine, however, discovering I was a match for someone who needed me and then walking away.

For now, I am crossing my fingers that if someone needs it, I will someday have the opportunity to help out. If you are between the ages of 18 - 44 and you are interested in supporting someone like Mia, go here for further information about getting on the national registry.

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