Bone marrow donors are giving the gift of life
In the United States each year, more than 130,000 people are diagnosed with a serious blood disease. Those diseases include blood cancers; leukemia and lymphoma, as well as Myelodysplastic syndrome, aplastic anemia, sickle cell anemia and other disorders.
For many, bone marrow transplant provides the only hope for survival. Unfortunately, at least one thousand patients die each year because they could not find a matching donor.
The need for bone marrow donors is great. At any given time, about 7,500 people are actively searching the national bone marrow registry for an unrelated donor. That’s because only 30 percent of those in need of cells find a donor in their family. Seventy percent need to connect with a stranger for this life-giving gift.
So who is a good candidate for donating? The best candidate is someone of the same race and ethnicity of the patient. That’s why the national Be The Match Registry, seeks to diversify the pool of donors. Ninety percent of donors are between the ages of 18 and 44 years old. Medical research has shown that younger donors offer patients the greatest chance for long-term survival.
“In my over 30 years of experience in stem cell transplant, I have seen hundreds of selfless people donate their bone marrow to strangers and save their lives,” says Dr. Anastasios Raptis, stem cell transplant medical director at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill. “Today bone marrow transplant has become one of the greatest success stories in cancer treatment. For many patients, it is a cure.”
Joining the registry is simple and only requires a consent form and four cheek swabs. If you are found to be a suitable match for a patient in need you will be contacted. According to Be the Match, one in 40 people will be called for additional testing. Then, one in 300 people will actually be chosen as the perfect match for a patient and ultimately, due to changes in patient’s conditions, only one in 500 will actually donate.
“If someone is thinking about donating, they should know that there are many guidelines in place to protect their health during the process,” Dr. Raptis adds. “Donating bone marrow is safe, but only two percent of the population is in the registry. We hope to increase that significantly.”
If you are interested in learning more about becoming a donor, visit www.bethematch.com.While donation is voluntary, experts urge you to consider the decision carefully. Once you are in the registry, you could get a call at any time to save a life. Time is of the essence.
About the Author
Evonne Woloshyn, health enews contributor, is director of public affairs at Advocate Children's Hospital. Evonne began her career as an anchor and reporter in broadcast news. Over the past 20 years, she has worked in health care marketing in both Ohio and Illinois. Evonne loves to travel, spend time with family and is an avid Pittsburgh Steelers fan!