Feb 25, 2020 12:00 AM


Every ten minutes, someone passes away from a blood disorder. That’s 148 people a day. There is a way to prevent many of these deaths—a bone marrow transplant. DNA matching has the power to help thousands of people waiting for a life-saving bone marrow donation, but this special donor list depends entirely upon the willingness of individuals to sign up. Could your unique DNA hold the match that helps one person live to see tomorrow? Here’s how you can find out.

Sign Up to Save Lives

Be The Match is a global hub for bone marrow donor registry working with hundreds of partners to support the transplant community. Signing up is easy online. You provide registration information, receive a kit in the mail, use the DNA swab as directed, and send it back for DNA typing. Your potentially life-saving information is secure and becomes available to specialized doctors around the world.

Even if you aren’t a match right away, the fact that every three minutes a person is diagnosed with a blood disorder means you could be called at any time to be a hero in someone’s time of need. Paloma Cariello, MD, MPH, says, “It’s absolutely a life-saving procedure. It’s a new life that people get—we call it a new birthday, and at many hospitals they give it as a new birthday date in their chart. We sing Happy Birthday. It’s a big event.”

Matching: Impossible?

To find a close enough match to help fortify a patient’s immune system, doctors have to be precise. They first reach out to family, but even then, only 30% of patients find a good match. The odds of finding a match in an unrelated donor can be as low as 18%, especially with minorities.

“The need for more individuals of every background cannot be overstated,” says University of Utah Health Hematologist Sagar Patel, MD. He emphasizes the need for ethnic minorities to register. Every ethnicity is represented in the pool of patients, so the donor pool likewise needs to be diversified to improve the availability of similar DNA typing.

The Donation Commitment

If a doctor finds you to be a suitable match, they select the ideal method for their patient and prepare you for donation. There are two donation methods: peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) donation and bone marrow donation. “Because every donor is carefully screened and prepared, and because a small amount of fluid is ultimately needed, neither procedure method impacts the performance of your own immune system,” says Cariello.

With PBSC retrieval, you receive a stimulant for five days to increase the presence of blood-forming cells in your blood stream. Then a refined process of extraction occurs: Your blood is drawn, a machine collects just the cells the patient needs, and your remaining fluids are safely returned to you. This process can usually be done in one eight-hour session. Most donors report a full recovery within a week to 10 days, but you will be followed-up with until your full recovery.

If the doctor determines that the patient needs bone marrow, your procedure is a bit different. Marrow needs to be drawn from your pelvic bones. It happens in a hospital and under anesthesia, and you will feel no pain as the donation is collected. You can go back to routine activity the same day, and your system fully replenishes within four to six weeks.

No Risk, Minimal Side Effects

Even with thousands of people in need, only about one in 430 donors in the Be The Match system are called in as a match. And the simple processes and expert professional care you receive minimize potential risk. A common side effect is bruising at the procedure sites, and some donors occasionally experience mild pain, fatigue, or dizziness. Reactions related to the use of anesthesia might also occur.

Low Odds—High Rewards

With such little risk, it shouldn’t be a question as to whether you sign up, but when. And today is a perfect day. The low odds of finding a cure that these patients face are as extreme as the high rewards that await them—and you—when you make the choice to become a donor. Visit BeTheMatch.org to learn more and to become the one who initiates the miraculous call: “We found a match.”

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