Thursday, April 24, 2014

How to Donate Bone Marrow and Sign Up to Become a Donor

This is my sister. She needs a bone marrow transplant.

When family and friends hear the news that a loved one needs a bone marrow transplant and are in need of a donor, many want to know how they can help. If you live in the U.S., one of the best and simplest ways to help is to sign up for the national bone marrow registry through

Why People Need a Bone Marrow Donation

A patient needs a bone marrow transplant when a disease negatively affects how her own bone marrow produces blood-forming cells. Many times this source of healthy cells comes from an allogenic transplant, or related donor transplant, which is when a family member or unrelated person donates their cells.

If a patient has a sibling, there is a 30 percent chance that this individual is a match. If a sibling isn’t a match, the doctor turns to Be the Match to find a donor. This is the reason why it’s so important for all those who are eligible to join the registry. 

There are three sources that a patient can use to replace her diseased cells with healthy ones:

  • Bone marrow: The cells inside your bones
  • Peripheral blood: Circulating blood from which doctors collect stem cells.
  • Umbilical cords: The doctors collect blood from umbilical cords after the birth of a baby.

The best source of healthy cells depends on the patient and her doctor’s recommendations.  

How to Donate Your Bone Marrow

bone marrow donation
Sign up to be a donor today!
Signing up to donate your bone marrow is simple. You simply jointhe bone marrow registry online or at a Be the Match donor registry drive. 

I signed up online. When I did this, I reviewed the criteria to make sure that I qualified to be a donor and provided my name, address and other contact information. While I was asked to make a $100 donation, it was not necessary to join the registry. If you are 44 years old or younger, you can join for free if you are on a tight budget.

After signing up, I received a registration kit in the mail. The kit has a big cotton swab that you rub against the inside of your check to collect cells. After swabbing your cheek, per the instructions that come in the kit, you send the sample back to Be the Match. The agency will analyze your sample and keep your information on file. 

If a patient in need has at least six of the eight same human leukocyte antigens (HLA) as you, someone will contact you. 

Once you are in the registry, you can call Be the Match to request a copy of your HLA report. I just made this request, and they are mailing and emailing it to me today. 

Getting Tested and Donating for a Specific Person

When you sign up for the Be the Match Registry, you commit to donating to any patient in need. Its registry does not provide private testing or testing for a specific patient.  

For private testing services, contact Kashi Laboratories at or 1-877-565-3287. At the time of publication, the testing kit is about $200. After you submit the kit and receive the results, you can forward it to a patient’s doctor to see if you are a potential match. 

Like blood, the body replenishes its supply of bone marrow after a donation. It doesn’t take many healthy cells to save a life. Learn more about bone marrow donation process.

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