I’ve recently deemed myself the “unofficial spokesperson” for Be The Match. If you’ve seen me in person within the last few months, or have even so much as texted me, you’ve probably heard my long-winded speech about becoming a bone marrow donor. Yes, I probably sound crazy trying to get people to donate the inside of their bones essentially, but by doing it, you can literally save the life of a leukemia or blood cancer patient. I’ve found, like myself, that before my family’s friend’s leukemia diagnosis, I had no idea that I was a prime and perfect candidate to become a bone marrow donor. Yes, me. The girl who has never so much as donated blood because she can’t (having lived in Europe…MOO!) is THE person they want to join the registry. All it takes is for someone to be willing.
What I’ve found, sadly, by giving my Be the Match speech to nearly anyone who will listen, is that people don’t want to be in pain. People don’t want to be inconvenienced in any sense of the word. People don’t want to give part of “their body” away to someone else. And I get it, I really do. But choosing to become a bone marrow donor is not about you. It’s not about how it will benefit you, because honestly, it won’t. It’s about someone else. Someone else whose very life depends on a transplant. Someone else who needs it so much more than I do, especially since my body will replenish the donated marrow within four to six weeks! It’s about saving that person’s life, and saving that person’s family from so much grief and heartache because they couldn’t find a donor.
So, I’ve decided to answer some questions I’ve received from people while trying to get them to sign up, because in this case, the more people know, the more I believe they will want to help. (Although sadly, I have not been able to successfully convince anyone except my husband to join the registry.)
What does it mean to “join” and become a donor? To join the registry means to have your DNA mapped to determine if you’re a match for someone in need. A “match” for a bone marrow donor is determined through your DNA (though I’m not sure of the specifics…a bunch of medical mumbo-jumbo I don’t understand, though it’s something to do with your ancestry) and they get your DNA by sending you a kit with four q-tips to swab the inside of your cheek. Then it is mailed back and it takes a few weeks for it to be mapped. Then, you’re in the system and when someone needs a transplant, their DNA is compared to all the DNA in the system to see if there is a match.
What are the qualifications to join? You need to be between the ages of 18-44 and in good health, and not more than 20% (I believe) overweight. Also, they ask you if you’ve ever had sex for money or had sex for drugs, so I know a lot of my friends are automatically excluded. Just kidding. The criteria are like that of donating blood, but probably not as specific. (That is just what I’ve heard from my husband who has donated blood in the past, where I have not) If you’re pregnant, you cannot physically give during that nine month period, but you can (and PLEASE) donate your umbilical cord blood to Be the Match.
Does it cost anything to join the registry? No. All of the costs are covered by Be the Match if you are between the ages of 18-44. If you’re over 44, it will cost you $100, but that is because after age 44, you’re not in the “prime” stage to donate.
What are the chances that I will be called to donate? According to bethematch.org, only one in 540 people on the registry will ever be called as a match to a recipient and asked to donate in their lifetime.
How much does it cost to actually donate if I am a match? Nothing. Most of the costs are covered by the recipient’s insurance.
Does it hurt to actually donate if I am a match? The whole “donating bone marrow really hurts” idea is actually a common misconception. There are two different ways to donate — one being similar to giving blood (taken from your stem cells) and the other is through an outpatient surgical procedure where it is typically removed from your hip bone. Sure, you’re going to feel a little pain afterward because you did have an incision into your body, but this isn’t going to be some long-term painful procedure. The type of donation depends on the needs of the patient.
If I am mapped, is my DNA used for any other purposes or available to anyone else? No, it is strictly used to be in the registry of donors. Your DNA will not be sold or used for research, or whatever concern you may have. It is perfectly safe and there is no risk of “DNA theft.” (This was never a thought in my head until a friend brought it up a few months ago, and it is a valid point.)
Any other questions? Visit bethematch.org and be convinced. It is not about helping yourself, it’s about saving another life! Be the Match and be the one to save a life.