There are several issues to consider before making the decision to donate bone marrow. Here are some examples:
- How do I feel about bone marrow donation in general?
- Does my religion have a position on donation?
- What impact (if any) will donation likely have on my relationship with the recipient? My family members? Friends?
- In the case of anonymous nondirected donation, am I OK with the possibility of never knowing who my recipient is?
- Who else might be considered as a donor? How might we mutually agree on who should be considered first?
- Am I prepared to deal with the possible outcomes of the donation such as rejection of the marrow or death of the recipient?
- Do I have the financial resources available to cover time off from work for testing, donation, and recovery?
- Am I prepared to deal with the possible complications from the donation such as headaches, infection, or pain?
- Am I comfortable with my motives for donation? Do I expect some sort of compensation or pay back for donating?
- Do I feel sufficiently informed to make an educated decision?
- Am I up to it physically? Are there current aspects of my health that I know should keep me from donating?
- Do I have a “support network”—family and friends—to help me through this process, or am I going it alone?
- How will I feel if I am rejected as a consequence of the screening process?
In the case of related donation, you need to be prepared for the possibility that you will not qualify as a donor, which can be emotionally taxing. The American Red Cross reports 70% of family members are not a match. That’s why volunteers for unrelated nondirected donation are so important. In the case of unrelated donation, it is most frequently nondirected. That is, the donor volunteers and doesn’t know who the potential recipient may be.
The decision whether or not to donate ultimately rests with you alone. However, there are resources available to you to help you through the decision-making process. Donor and collection centers routinely include educational sessions for potential donors. You might also consider reaching out to family members, close friends, a religious or spiritual guide, or someone who has gone through this process. You can select a bone marrow Living Donor Buddy™ or post a question on the LDO Message Forum.
Volunteering Means Registering
Bone marrow or peripheral stem cell donation is a great form of unrelated nondirected donation. For those of you moved by a desire to help others through living donation, this form of donation deserves special consideration because of the need, the less intrusive form of donation, the speedier recovery, the low risk to the donor, and the ability to donate more than once.
The process of volunteering to donate bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cells begins with registering. Here are ways to register:
- Participate in a bone marrow drive. You can find marrow drives by calling marrow donation centers or searching marrow web sites on the Internet.
- Visit a marrow donation center. Centers in your area can be located by searching on the Internet.
- Request a home testing kit through a marrow registry web site.
Here are examples of marrow registries that allow for online registration:
- American Bone Marrow Donor Registry
- Caitlin Raymond International Registry
- Be the Match, National Marrow Donor Program
- Delete Blood Cancer
And here’s a link to an extensive list of global bone marrow registries, which will allow you to choose the registry that makes the most sense for your circumstances and location:
The registration process includes providing your contact information, medical history, and the taking of a blood sample or buccal (cheek) cells for tissue typing. Typically, you pay for the cost of this testing, which currently ranges from about $50 to $100. However, in some situations you can avoid the cost, such as agreeing to be tested while you donate blood or by participating in a donor registration drive sponsored by an organization that pays for the cost of testing.
Once you register, make sure you keep your contact information current. If you move, change your email address, or change your phone number, be sure to let the marrow registry know so they have accurate contact information for you in the future if they find a match.