Every year, more than 10,000 patients in the U.S. are diagnosed with life-threatening diseases such as leukemia or lymphoma. Sometimes their best or only hope of a cure is a transplant from an unrelated marrow donor or cord blood unit. People who need transplants depend on strangers – someone like you, who can help give them a second chance at life. Doctors search the National Bone Marrow Registry (Be The Match) to find donors who match their patients, but myths and mystery about donation often prevent people from signing up.
Myth: Becoming part of the bone marrow registry is complex.
Reality: Joining the bone marrow registry is easy. It involves completing a health history form and giving a swab of cheek cells (done by wiping the inside of your cheek with a swab). You can go to a donor drive and do this in person or start the process online (www.bethematch.org) and complete it in your own home. To join, people need to be between the ages of 18 – 60, willing to donate to any patient in need, and meet health guidelines.
Myth: Bone marrow donation is expensive.
Reality: Joining the registry is free (you are invited to give a donation to help defray costs if you wish). The cost of the actual bone marrow donation (if you are a match) is covered by the person needing the transplant.
Myth: Bone marrow donation is painful.
Reality: Joining the registry is painless. While there may be some discomfort from an actual bone marrow donation, most donors say they would do it again to save a life. If a member of the registry is called as a potential match for a patient, he or she will be asked to give another cheek swab sample or blood sample to confirm that he or she is the best possible match. The donor will also attend an information session to learn more.
There are two ways to donate if called. Most donations do not involve surgery. About 75 percent of the time, the patient’s doctor requests a peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) donation, which is a non-surgical, outpatient procedure. If the patient’s doctor requests marrow (about 25 percent of the time), the donation process is a surgical procedure performed in a hospital. General or regional anesthesia is always used for this procedure. The doctor decides which method is best for a patient.
Myth: Everyone can easily find a donor match within their family.
Reality: Every day, more than 6,000 patients search the national registry for a life-saving donor because a match could not be found in the family.
Myth: You can’t be a match.
Reality: You could be a match and save a life.
We all have the power to help, the power to give hope. Click here to learn more about becoming a marrow donor.
Meet Rick, Journey, and Isioma. They are three Lifeline Project participants who need help coping with transplant-related expenses.
Rick, a well-regarded horse trainer and instructor, was diagnosed with cancer in 1997. He was faced with the devastating diagnosis again in 2007 and 2009. In order to fight chronic lymphocytic leukemia and small lymphocytic lymphoma (CLL-SLL), Rick underwent additional chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant. Until his immune system rebuilds itself, Rick will not be able to work or be near his beloved horses, leaving him in need of financial assistance for medical and living expenses.
Journey, an outgoing and happy six-year-old girl, was diagnosed with neuroblastoma in 2009. Journey and her family needed to relocate in order to be closer to the treatment center. Throughout her chemotherapy and bone marrow transplant, she continued to keep a smile on her face and looked forward to spending time with her little brother and sister. To help Journey and her family focus on her recovery, they are requesting assistance with treatment and relocation expenses.
Last year Isioma was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. Treatments left him physically unable to work in his family’s food business and as a result they lost the business and their source of income. Isioma is currently recovering from the bone marrow transplant he received in April. He is in need of funding to cover the cost of his post transplant care.
To help these or any of the Lifeline Project participants, click here.
You probably know someone like Larry Smith. At 33, he is a son, a brother, and an uncle to four nieces. He worked in the auto industry and he enjoys a good laugh, especially with family and friends.
Doctors tested Larry’s family members to determine if any of them could be his donor, but no one was a match. Partial matches were found through the National Marrow Donor Program, but doctors hope to find a better match in order to improve the chances of successful treatment and recovery. To help find more potential donors for Larry and other transplant patients who are looking for matches, a donor registration drive is being held Saturday in Tolland, Connecticut.
While the search continues, doctors are preparing Larry for transplant with chemotherapy. After a suitable bone marrow donor is found, Larry will face additional expenses beyond his means. He has been unable to work since he was diagnosed, and Larry will need to relocate to be near the transplant center and will require 24-hour care while he recovers. To help pay for Larry’s transplant-related expenses and post-transplant care, his family has set up a One-to-One Fund at The Bone Marrow Foundation, through which supporters can make tax-deductible donations. One-to-One Funds are one of the ways the Foundation helps patients pay for their life-saving transplants and critical ancillary expenses.
Larry and his family are incredibly grateful for the support that they have received from their friends and community. They are determined that he will win this fight.