Saturday, December 29, 2012
December 29, 2012 — A Donor’s Story
These words were spoken by William Hudson, a CNN producer, after making a bone-marrow donation to save the life of a total stranger:
“I knew that no matter how much time and money I did or did not donate to nonprofits and charities doing important work, this was different. Here was a patient with a blood cancer whose particular immune system resembled my own. Turns out I, among potentially everyone in the world, was in the best position to save her life. It’s an awesome responsibility and opportunity.”
The most important thing, in making this sort of life-saving difference for someone else, is to join the national bone marrow registry. As Mr. Hudson explains it:
“Joining is a small time investment — all it takes is a few cotton swabs of saliva — but understandably seems to have no payoff. The chances of ever becoming a donor are only about 1 in 540.... I was on the registry for five years before I received a potential donor letter.”
According to the article, should a member of the network be selected as a donor, there are two ways the necessary stem cells can be harvested: an actual bone-marrow harvest (a minor surgical procedure), or the much easier peripheral blood stem cell donation, or PBSC — which is not much more difficult than taking a pill for five days, then donating blood. Procedures have improved to such a degree in recent years that, for most adult recipients, either procedure works well. In the case of some children, an actual bone-marrow donation is preferred.
I’ve had the preliminary tissue-typing done at the Hackensack University Medical Center so that, should my indolent lymphoma flare up in a dangerous way, I could receive a bone-marrow donation. I’ve struck out with both my brothers — both were tested, but were not good matches for me — so in that event I’d be dependent on an anonymous donor. According to the best medical science today, the only potentially curative treatment for the sort of lymphoma I have is a transplant (although at this time, when my disease appears to be dormant, the potential side effects outweigh the advantage of seeking a transplant).
Becoming a donor — even joining the registry — is a beautiful thing. To find out more about joining the registry, go to marrow.org.