A couple months back I joined the National Marrow Donor Program Registry, now called the Be The Match Registry. It is a registry of people willing to make a bone marrow transplant to patients with leukemia or other life-threatening diseases. After undergoing chemotherapy and/or radiation, a patient needs healthy blood-forming cells from a donor who is a close genetic match. According to the website, seventy percent of patients needing a transplant do not have a donor in their family who is a close enough match. This is where the Be The Match Registry steps in.
Upon joining the registry online, you are sent a kit for collecting a swab of cheek cells. You ship that back and your information is added to their database. Doctors query this database to try and find a match for a patient in need. If you are identified as a potential match, you are called and asked to give a blood sample for more testing. At this point, you are probably one of several people being tested to find the best possible match. The chance of you being selected from here is 1 in 12.
If you do happen to be a close enough match to the patient, you are asked to attend an information session to make sure you are comfortable with the process. A physical exam is also given to make sure you are healthy enough for a donation. If all is well, you can donate through either a bone marrow donation, or a PBSC donation. You can find out more about those here. The patient's doctor chooses the method that is best for the patient.
When all is said and done, you will have participated in a life-saving transplant. Think about that. You saved a life. Imagine if that person with leukemia were your parent, your sibling, or your child. Imagine if no one in your family was able to donate, and the only option available for saving your family member was finding an unrelated donor. Think of the impact it would make if YOU could be that person for another family. That's what prompted me to join the registry.
As it turns out, I received a call last week that I was a potential match for a 10 year old with leukemia. I went in to a bloodcare center and had blood withdrawn to be sent off for further testing. Embarrassingly enough, I fainted halfway through the extraction process (I had 4 of 7 tubes filled), and couldn't complete the sample. But that won't faze me! I'm going back next week to finish the job and then it's a waiting game to find out if I'm a match. It could take as little as a week or as long as 60 days to find out. I'm keeping my fingers crossed. Yes, the process might be daunting and painful, but that pales in comparison to the reward.
Join the Registry and save a life.