I’m sure many of you have heard of Be the Match, but do you know how it helps save lives? When you think of bone marrow, a surgery table probably crosses your mind. Thankfully, that’s not necessarily the case. Oftentimes the patient’s doctor requests something called a “peripheral blood stem cell donation,” which is nonsurgical and is part of the Be the Match program. However, if a marrow donation is needed, surgery is required.
With the peripheral blood stem cell donation (or what they call PBSC), you take a medication for five days leading up to the donation, and then the donation itself sounds almost like a standard apheresis donation. Basically your blood is removed from a needle in one arm, separated so blood-forming cells can be removed, and then returned through a needle to your other arm. Your body replaces those cells back to the normal level within 4-6 weeks. Most donors report that they feel completely recovered within 2 weeks of donating. Prior to that their symptoms can include headaches or body aches for a couple days before the collection, due to the injection of the medication (Filgrastim).
With a bone marrow donation, it’s a little bit different. As this is a surgical outpatient procedure, you will receive anesthesia and during the donation you won’t feel any pain. The doctor will use a needle to withdraw some liquid marrow from the back of your pelvic bone and that marrow will completely replace itself within 4-6 weeks as well. Most donors feel some soreness in their lower back for a few days and report they feel completely recovered within 3 weeks of the donation. Some states even require an employer to pay leave while an individual recuperates from donating bone marrow.
The importance of bone marrow donations (or PBSC donations) is simply that they help save lives. Due to many different complications, donors are called upon when they are found to match someone in need of a transfusion. Many different factors come in to play, but in the end it is just another way to help save someone’s life. To join, all you have to do is go to http://marrow.org and click on the Join tab. Not only will the website answer any questions you have, but it can also walk you through the process of becoming a member.